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$750M in virus aid for NC broadband expansion OK’d by House

RALEIGH (AP) — The North Carolina House unanimously approved legislation on Wednesday that aims to spend $750 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to install high-speed internet in rural and remote areas lacking it.

The legislation would set aside $350 million in discretionary American Rescue Plan funds earmarked for North Carolina to expand a relatively new state broadband installation matching funds program with internet providers and electric cooperatives.
The bill also expresses the intent to use $400 million in the funds from Congress on a new program that gives counties the ability to put out bids for broadband expansion in underserved areas.

Federal aid going to counties also would pay for those projects.
The measure, which now goes to the Senate, meets goals of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper in his proposal last week to spend $1.2 billion of America Rescue Plan money on improving internet access.

But his plan spends half of that money on things like subsidizing service costs, purchasing computer equipment for households lacking it and offering “digital literacy” training.
Some Democrats said during floor debate they wished Wednesday’s bill contained the service subsidies. Still, the bill passed 109-0.