New legislation could mean millions to increase broadband access in NC

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CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – The federal infrastructure legislation has passed the Senate, and if it passes in the house, millions of dollars will be allocated to getting broadband access to those in need.

  According to NC Senator Thom Tillis, North Carolina could get 100 million dollars in the first year of the new legislation and that would help 424,000 North Carolinians who currently don’t have access.  

 We rely on the service for virtual school, zoom meetings, and looking at electronic health records. Having access to the internet is more important now than ever, but in North Carolina, only 67% of residents have a broadband subscription and 6% of households have no internet service at all according to the North Carolina Department of Information Technology.

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“This is now a unique opportunity,” said Bruce Clark, executive director at Digital Charlotte at Queens Knight School of Communication. “It’s more money than we’ve ever seen which gives us the opportunity to have more impact than we’ve ever seen.”

 In Mecklenburg County, the state map shows the digital divide on South Boulevard in the Lower South End.

 On one side of the street, 35% of homes have no internet access and 16% of the homes have no computer.

 Across the street, 15% of homes have no internet access, and only 7% of homes have no computer inside.

“We’re not talking about technology, we’re not talking about internet access,” added Clark. “We’re really talking about people’s ability to thrive in our modern culture.”

 The city of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, and other agencies like Digital Charlotte have been working together already.

 Money has been used through the American Recovery Act, and this new legislation could further close the digital gap.

“It’s incredibly important that money comes not only here but to every community,” says Clark. “The key is going to be communities that are ready to receive those dollars, are organized, and where institutions are communicating and talking together.”

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