North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has drawn criticism by offering the promise of broadband funding, then suddenly taking it back. Cooper indicated the money could be better spent elsewhere, without immediately elaborating on what he had in mind, reports WNCT-TV.
In September, Governor Cooper said extending broadband coverage to the state’s underserved communities was a goal. He approved the use of $30 million in broadband grants as part of this project. North Carolina, like other states, is working to address the need for broadband connections during the pandemic. The withdrawal of this funding has come as an unpleasant surprise to many North Carolinians, according to the account.
Cooper later issued a press release indicating the money could be re-channelled through the newly established Education Corps. Since the Education Corps does not plan to start hiring until December, any available funding will be put on hold rather than distributed by the end of the year, reports WNCT-TV. The release suggests that funds will come from local school districts rather than a state-directed effort. “Compensation for Education Corps members will be provided by local school systems, which can utilize funding provided to them from North Carolina’s share of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, a part of the federal CARES Act.”
The governor’s office did not explain the change in direction, which seems likely to slow down broadband delivery by establishing a new entity rather than working with current broadband providers, reports WNCT-TV. Allocating funds in this manner also puts all broadband resources under the aegis of participating schools, rather than entire communities which may be underserved.
“It’s mystifying,” Mitch Kokai, senior political analyst at the John Locke Foundation told the Laurinburg Exchange, “Because there seemed to be pretty widespread agreement among the state’s leading political players that the money should go toward rural broadband. It’s disturbing because the governor appears to be reaching beyond his authority. Legislatures approve budgets. Governors enact those budgets. The governor is not supposed to rewrite parts of the budget that he doesn’t like.”