North Carolina Looks South for Inspiration

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In an attempt to reach out to its rural residents, North Carolina is considering encouraging electric co-ops to offer high speed internet access, reports NonprofitQuarterly.org. Current laws restrict the activities of the co-ops, but new legislation may loosen the rules and allow broadband expansion into underserved areas of the state.

North Carolina lawmakers are reviewing House Bill 387, which is designed to make it easier to foster connectivity.  

The measure would allow the electric co-ops to broadband funding from the USDA. Expenses incurred for broadband expansion would not be levied against the co-op as costly ‘infrastructure” expenses. The bill would also allow easements already held by the co-op to be used for broadband as well as electricity.

House Bill 387 was drafted by Representative Howard Hunter (D).  “We need broadband bad,” Hunter said, “That’s the talk of the session.” Legislators in North Carolina are hoping that their state, like Mississippi before it, will choose the co-op option as a pragmatic solution for delivering broadband services to all its residents.

Nelle Hotchkiss, Chief Operating Officer for North Carolina Electric, said if the bill passes, her organization has a business model ready to implement. She believes the state’s electrical co-ops will be able to offer a product that is affordable for both residents and the service providers.

March 27, 2019

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