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Lawmakers look for ways to reduce barriers to rural broadband

Published by North Carolina Health News on May 1st, 2019

By Taylor Knopf

Decades ago, companies and local governments worked to bring electric, water and sewer to the rural communities of North Carolina. Now those organizations want to work together to provide the same access to broadband, something that’s increasingly being seen as the  next “standard utility.”

But getting high-speed internet into every corner of North Carolina is proving to be a challenge.

Advocates and lawmakers say that broadband is an economic, education, safety and health care issue that needs to be overcome to help rural communities.

Broadband access could help existing rural businesses and help attract new ones to an area. Rural residents say their students have access to the internet at schools, but often cannot complete online homework assignments at home.

First responders say they need broadband access to better communicate and protect their communities. Broadband would help medical providers better connect and care for their patients through telemedicine, particularly those in rural parts of the state where there’s a lack of providers.

Two bills filed at the state legislature aim to ease the way for broadband to make its way into rural North Carolina. One would allow public-private partnerships between municipalities and internet service providers. The second would allow electric cooperatives access to existing infrastructure to spread broadband into areas without high-speed internet.

Read the original article here