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North Carolina House Passes 'Bright Futures' Bill to Spread Fast Internet

The bill could help bring high-speed Internet to 3 million people in 85 of North Carolina’s 100 counties.

by Paul Woolverton, The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. / April 21, 2017
Asheville, N.C. Shutterstock

(TNS) -- RALEIGH — The state House on Thursday approved the “Bright Futures Act,” a bill designed to expand high-speed internet service to rural communities and other underserved areas.

The legislation now moves to the Senate.

The bill will help those communities grow their economies and draw jobs, state Rep. John Szoka of Cumberland County said during debate on the House floor. He is the lead sponsor of the bill.

“Rural and underserved areas have historically been left behind when key technology and infrastructure have been required for economic development,” Szoka said in a news release from the office of House Speaker Tim Moore.

The news release says the bill could help bring high-speed internet to 3 million people in 85 of North Carolina’s 100 counties.

The legislation would allow cities and counties with fiber optic cables or other internet-capable infrastructure installed for municipal needs to lease the excess capacity to private internet service providers to offer internet to residents and businesses.

Further, public-private partnerships could be created to install infrastructure to spread the service, Szoka said.

The legislation is designed to be flexible on how the infrastructure is installed — it could be a traditional wired connection, a high-speed wireless connection, or whatever other technology is developed to do the job, Szoka has said in interviews about the legislation.

The state has previously passed laws to prevent city and county governments from providing internet service to their communities. The policy was premised on the theory that the government would be competing against private companies.

At the same time, private high-speed internet providers have skipped much of the state because there is insufficient profit potential in low-population areas to cover the costs.

This legislation does not permit local governments to independently provide internet service to their residents.

©2017 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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