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In Jon Sanders’ April 10 piece (“Local governments still don’t need to get in broadband business,”) his argument that private companies are best suited to close the digital divide in North Carolina conveniently sidesteps the fact that they have repeatedly failed to do so. Despite the passage of the Level Playing Field law eight years ago, one in six rural North Carolinians still has no access to high-quality broadband.
Because they respond to local incentives, city and county governments are a vital part of the rural broadband solution. Wilson’s Greenlight network, which has brought high-quality, affordable broadband choice to city residents while growing the economy and improving government efficiency, is a perfect example of this.
Of course, local governments alone can’t connect all of rural North Carolina, but neither can private businesses. North Carolina needs to use all of its options, including private providers, rural cooperatives, and yes, local governments, if it wants everyone to have access to fast, affordable, reliable connectivity.
The public-private partnerships enabled by the FIBER NC Act (House Bill 431) will help expand broadband access in rural communities and create choices for the millions of North Carolinians stuck with out-of-state monopolies. Without these partnerships, rural North Carolina will have to wait even longer for modern Internet access.
The writer is a research associate for the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.