Governor Roy Cooper has proclaimed Aug. 16–20, 2021, as Rural Broadband Week to call attention to the urgent need to improve broadband access and adoption across our state.
Throughout the week, Gov. Cooper and the North Carolina Department of Information Technology will highlight how increased investments can equitably expand digital infrastructure, tools and skills in rural areas, allowing all North Carolinians to participate in today’s digital economy.
"High-speed internet is essential infrastructure for everyone, from students and teachers to small business owners, workers, doctors and farmers, and we need to improve access for rural communities across our state," Gov. Cooper said. "In the wake of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to empower every household in North Carolina to use fast internet service to link to new skills, global markets, education and healthcare.
Rural Broadband Week celebrates the innovative broadband activities by residents, businesses, nonprofits and governments in rural North Carolina. High-speed internet connects doctors and patients, while farmers remotely monitor crop conditions, and counties make digital inclusion plans based on what residents tell them they need.
Rural Broadband Week also raises awareness of the critical needs for equitable access to affordable, reliable broadband in rural areas, as demonstrated during the pandemic. In rural areas, 33.5% of households – a total of 43,000 households – do not have access to infrastructure for broadband speeds of 50/10 Mbps. Rural counties make up 18 of the 20 counties in which more than half of households lack access to 100/10 Mbps internet speeds, which is considered high speed.
"Closing this digital gap requires transformational investments in infrastructure, affordability and digital skills by the state of North Carolina and strong collaboration with private and nonprofit partners," said Jim Weaver, Secretary of the N.C. Department of Information Technology. "We're making great strides expanding rural broadband infrastructure. We now are aiming beyond infrastructure to achieve digital equity. That requires us to keep innovating new ways to increase affordability and promote digital literacy skills."
Governor Cooper's $1.2 billion Closing the Digital Divide Plan will give 95% of households access to broadband of 100/20 Mbps and will address issues of affordability and digital literacy that affect rural counties. Those efforts will be accelerated by NCDIT's new Office of Digital Equity and Literacy, a first for North Carolina and a first in the nation.
Follow Rural Broadband Week activities on NCDIT's Facebook and Twitter accounts and the NCDIT's Division of Broadband and Digital Equity's Twitter account. The week will demonstrate how digital inclusion and broadband affect the works and lives of rural North Carolinians from healthcare to agriculture.