Some of you know that myself and a few others put together a broadband committee back in 2020 to try to cut through some of the red tape surrounding getting broadband here in Stanly County. Well, I wanted to give a “state of the union” kind of report so folks know where we are and what we’re doing.
Why is it so hard?
Well, there’s a pesky little law in the way in NC that prevents municipal governments from getting involved in Broadband Internet. The fear is that government will decide to start offering internet and that would scare away private investments such as Verizon and Spectrum from wanting to bother coming in to underserved areas.
The truth is – that’s BS and always has been. You can thank Justin Burr for that sweet little gem of legislation. But unless some ISP just wants to show up out of the goodness of their little hearts and just spend a few million bucks taking internet to places that will never really “pay off” for them, private enterprise isn’t going to solve our problem. If it would, it would have been solved sometime in the last decade or so.
What’s happening that’s newsworthy?
Well, there’s a few things going on right now and they all kind of need to work together, so I’m writing this to get some help from the citizens of Stanly. We (the broadband committee) are doing all we can to help, but this literally REQUIRES help from you, the public, if you want us to be able to get this across the finish line.
First off, myself and fellow commissioners have voted to put aside around 2 million dollars from our county’s ARP funds to put towards broadband. Yeah, great right? Except remember that stupid little law? Yeah, so we’ve got the money but we can’t spend it on anything because that law is in the way!
So… we’re exploring new options just now available to us through both the GREAT grant program and the CAB program… two different grant options that we can utilize. Again, we both know free money ain’t free, but if they’re going to give it away to someone, I’d like to see the children and families of Stanly get it rather than see it go somewhere else.
The GREAT Grant Option
One of these grant programs is called the Great Grant. This is federal dollars, not state dollars. It stands for “Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology”.
Without going into all the details, these grants will allow us to ask a provider to step up (Let’s say it’ Spectrum). Spectrum can apply to participate in the program with the state. Applications are due April 4th, 2022. The state will invest up to 4 million in Stanly’s program. We will be required to match up to 15% of that. Ok, so we dump in about $600K ourselves. Spectrum will then be required to pony up 4 million of their own as well!
The advantage for Stanly – we get about 8.6 million in investment into Broadband in Stanly because the ISP would be doing the work, not us, which gets around that stupid law that’s preventing us from getting things done.
The advantage for Spectrum (or whomever the ISP is) – they get 8.6 million worth of infrastructure and only have to spend 4 million dollars to get it.
They can use the State and County’s money to invest in the unserved areas, and then use their own money to invest where we know they probably WANT to… expanding services in already-served areas.
It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s a whole lot better than what we’ve had options for in recent years.
The CAB program
The CAB Grant option (Completing Access to Broadband) works basically the same way except we might have to match more from our own coffers. The CAB program isn’t totally fleshed out yet but it’s in the works. If we invest $600K into the GREAT grant option, that would leave somewhere around 1.4 million for us to use with the CAB program.
Why YOU are needed
The most important thing about this is that they are required to provide service in “unserved” areas. Well, all PREVIOUS definitions of unserved rely on that stupid out-of-date BS-riddled FCC map from 2010 that’s 100% pure bullshit. The FCC basically says that almost all of Stanly has broadband because that’s what the providers told them a decade ago. It was a lie then. It’s a lie now.
What these new grant programs do that’s nice is – they allow us to rely on OUR DATA that we’ve been collecting since 2020 – that broadband survey that’s been running around Stanly. They will factor THAT into consideration to help determine where is served and unserved,; not just that ridiculous FCC map.
Some of you might remember I pushed everyone to try to do that survey a few weeks ago. Some folks (a lot of them actually) had problems with the speed test part of the survey causing a problem and then folks couldn’t submit the survey. I took those complaints to Andy and the developers and they think they have them fixed now. So you can take the survey the old fashioned way, or you can take it without the speed test.
The IMPORTANT part of the survey isn’t the speed test – it’s the customer responses.
This survey has been going for almost 18 months and it only has around 1800 responses. There are 20,000 households in Stanly County. If we can’t get up to around 5,000 households participating, this survey will flop and all our work might be for nothing.
Let me reiterate this – THIS IS ONE OF THOSE INSTANCES WHERE WE CAN’T DO EVERYTHING FOR YOU. YOU HAVE TO GET PEOPLE OFF THEIR BUTT TO PARTICIPATE IF YOU WANT THIS TO WORK!!!
What do you need to do? It’s simple. There are only two things.
- Take the danged survey.
- Get every single household you know to take the danged survey.
Myself, Gerald Poplin, Wayne Sasser, Andy Lucas and others have been working on this for almost a year and a half. We’re doing our part. This isn’t part of anyone’s job… this is a volunteer committee we put together to try to do something government wasn’t doing well and private sector doesn’t care about at all, and hopefully we’re finally able to see some progress. The stars have aligned in just such a way at just the right time to allow us to bypass Justin Burr’s stupid legislation and maybe get something started but you are GOING TO HAVE TO DO YOUR PART!
How to take the survey:
To take the primary survey (click here).
- Click that link.
- Scroll to the bottom and click “I Agree”
- Click “Take the Survey”
If that doesn’t work, you can take the alternate survey.
Or click either of the buttons below.
If you’re sharing this article and just trying to get folks to take the survey, just tell them to go to this page and scroll to the bottom and click one of the button. It’s that easy!