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North Carolina Bill to Use Coops to Expand Broadband

Published by The on March 21, 2019
By Jon Hawley 

Area lawmakers are backing new legislation that would help electric cooperatives offer broadband internet.

Rep. Howard Hunter III, D-Hertford, is a primary sponsor of House Bill 387, which was introduced Tuesday and would remove restrictions on electric membership corporations supporting or providing broadband internet. Other primary sponsors include Republican House Reps. Dean Arp, John Szoka and David Lewis. State Reps. Ed Goodwin, R-Chowan, and Bobby Hanig, R-Currituck, are also among the bill’s 33 co-sponsors.

Hunter said the legislation seeks to bring affordable broadband to underserved, rural communities, which lawmakers widely agree is a burning issue.

“You know we need broadband bad,” Hunter said. “That's the talk of the session.”

State law doesn't forbid electric coops from offering internet, but it does make it harder and more expensive. To reduce those barriers, H387, and its companion legislation, Senate Bill 310, would make three key changes, according to Nelle Hotchkiss, chief operating officer for coops' statewide organization, NC Electric Cooperatives.

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