AN ACT CONSISTENT WITH HOUSE BILL 966 TO ENACT CHANGES TO THE GROWING RURAL ECONOMIES WITH ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM AND TO PROVIDE FUNDING FOR THAT PROGRAM. SL 2019-230. Enacted October 14, 2019. Sections 2 and 3 are effective July 1, 2020. Section 4 is effective July 1, 2021. The remainder is effective July 1, 2019.
Summary date: Oct 14 2019 - View summary
Summary date: Oct 2 2019 - View summary
Senate committee substitute deletes the provisions of the 1st edition and now provides the following.
Amends GS 143B-1373, Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) program, as follows.
Adds to the definition of eligible project, deeming a project to be located in the county where the greatest number of unserved household projects are proposed to be served in instances where a contiguous project area crosses from one eligible county into one or more eligible adjacent counties. Modifies the term eligible recipient to no longer specifically require partnerships to be formed on or after January 1, 2018. Amends the definition of infrastructure costs to no longer specifically include equipment, fiber, and construction. Adds to the defined terms infrastructure, partnership, and prospective broadband recipient. Defines partnership to mean a project for which an Internet service provider affirms that a formalized agreement exists between the provider and one or more unaffiliated partners where the partner is either: (1) a separate Internet service provider or (2) a nonprofit or not-for-profit, or a for-profit subsidiary of either, and the Internet service provider is being allowed access and use of the partner's infrastructure, on special terms and conditions designed to facilitate the provision of broadband services in unserved areas, or is utilizing a financial contribution provided by one or more partners where the total contribution is not less than 10%, but not more than 49%, of the match required by the statute. Adds that a county that is not engaged in providing consumer broadband service may qualify as a nonprofit for the purpose of the statute.
Modifies program eligibility. Now deems ineligible project areas comprised of census blocks, or portions of census blocks, within which a broadband provider is receiving matching funds to deploy broadband services within the next 18 months (previously, specified receipt of State or federal matching funds to deploy technologically neutral scalable broadband service within that time period). Permits a private provider receiving Universal Service or Connect America Phase II, or nonfederal funds (previously, State or federal matching) to deploy broadband service to qualify for protection by submitting within 60 days of the application period a listing of the census blocks or portions of census blocks comprising the federally funded project areas meeting the requirement and nothing more to the Broadband Infrastructure Office (Office) in the Department of Information Technology (DIT). Requires the cutoff date for submitting census block data to be established by the office, but requires the date be no less than 60 days prior to the beginning date of the application period (previously, set the cutoff date on May 15). Adds that upon the expiration of the 18-month reservation period, a private provider that has received a reservation of census blocks must submit written documentation by April 30 of the year following the program year that broadband development has begun or been completed in the census blocks or portions of the census blocks deemed ineligible by the Office due to the existence of a federally funded project area.
Adds to the information that grant applications must include to now require available addresses or other identifying information satisfactory to the Office relating to the area to be served, as specified. Authorizes the Office to require an applicant to submit additional information in the event the Office is unable to identify the proposed project area with specificity. Also requires applications to, in the event construction of the proposed project would result in the provision of broadband services to areas that are not eligible for funding, identify the ineligible areas.
Establishes that a provider submitting an application bears the burden of proof that the proposed area to be served can be served using the proposed technology. Provides that the burden of proof can be satisfied by the submission of data, maps, and any other information satisfactory to the Office that demonstrates that the area and number of prospective broadband recipients proposed to be served can be provided the minimum upload and download speeds indicated in the application.
Provides for applications to be amended to accurately reflect the level of current broadband service, and allows the Office to revise application scores based on the amended application. Concerning provider protest to an application, allows the Office to release to an applicant the locations or areas declared ineligible following a protest granted for a portion of the application. Deems this information not public record and confidential. Adds a new requirement for any provider submitting a protest to verify the accuracy of the protest and that the protest is submitted in good faith. Authorizes the Office to deny any protest or application that contains inaccurate information, and to use speed tests to resolve a protest, as provided.
Amends the scoring of project applications. Concerning points for projects involving a partnership, as defined, increases the points given for projects involving a partnership, including a county in certain instances, as specified. Concerning the points given to projects located in counties that will serve certain estimated numbers of unserved households, reduces the thresholds set forth with coordinating point values. Concerning points given to projects that will serve certain thresholds of unserved households within the eligible economically distressed county the project will serve, now provides for points based on the percentage of unserved households within the project area with coordinating point values. Additionally, modifies the base speed score multiplier schedule.
Provides for priority of applications proposing to serve the highest number of new households at the lowest cost per household in the event there is a tie for applications receiving the same score.
Adds a new requirement for grant recipients to certify and provide to the Office evidence consistent with FCC attestation that either speeds greater than those identified in the application guidelines or the proposed upstream and downstream broadband speeds identified in the application guidelines are available throughout the project area prior to any end user connections (previously, require attestation that the proposed minimum upstream and downstream broadband speeds identified in the application guidelines are available throughout the project area as specified).
Modifies the grant recipient matching requirements that are based on the application score. Prohibits Connect America Phase II Fund from being used for the required matching funds, in addition to Universal Service Fund (previously, Connect America Fund was prohibited, as well as other grants awarded for broadband expansion through a separate State or federal program). Permits any current or future federal funds to be used for the required matching funds within the parameters of the program, including any future phase of the Connect America Fund.
Sections 2 and 3
Amends GS 143B-1373, as amended, to include a county designated as a development tier two area in the definition of eligible economically distressed county under the program (was, limited to counties designated as development tier one areas). Restricts use of program funds for projects located in development tier two counties to no more than one-third of the funds appropriated to the GREAT fund. Effective July 1, 2020.
Amends GS 143B-1373, as amended, to allow the use of program funds for projects located in development tier two counties to no more than one-half (was, one-third) of the funds appropriated to the GREAT fund, and allows the Office to allocate more if not enough grant applications for projects located in development tier one counties have been received to distribute one-half of the funds appropriated to the GREAT fund as of March 1. Effective July 1, 2021.
Enacts GS 143B-1373(p) to authorize DIT to use up to 1% of the appropriated funds to administer the program.
Directs the Department of Administration (DOA) to collaborate with the Office to develop a streamlined approval process for the negotiation and execution of lease agreements for collocation, installation, and operation of broadband equipment on State-owned property. Requires involvement of identified stakeholders. Requires the Office to develop a streamlined approval process of no more than 270 days from the date the formal lease proposal is submitted to a State agency. Details the priority of reducing or eliminating the need for renegotiating primary lease terms. Requires DOA to establish a market-based rate for lease amounts that can be used as a basis for similar agreements across the State. Requires DOA to implement the process and submit a report detailing the process, along with a list of stakeholders and their input, to the specified NCGA committee and division on or before December 1, 2019.
Transfers from the General Fund to the State Capital and Infrastructure Fund (Fund) $15 million for each fiscal year from the 2019-20 fiscal year through the 2028-29 fiscal year. Appropriates from the Fund $15 million for each fiscal year from the 2019-20 fiscal year through the 2028-29 fiscal year to the GREAT fund.
Provides for the appropriations and authorizations to allocate and spend funds set forth in the act to remain in effect until the Current Operations Appropriations Act for the applicable fiscal year becomes law, at which time that act governs the appropriations and expenditures and the Director of the Budget will adjust allotments to give effect to that act from July 1 of the fiscal year.
Repeals the act if HB 966 (Appropriations Act of 2019) becomes law.
Effective July 1, 2019.
Amends the act's titles.
Summary date: Apr 25 2019 - View summary
House committee substitute to the 1st edition makes the following changes. Changes the act's long title. Amends the act's whereas clauses.
Amends proposed GS 117-18.1(d) to more specifically exempt from the two previously identified conditions the separate business activities of an electric membership corporation that forms, organizes, acquires, holds, disposes of, or operates any interest in a separate business entity that provides or supports high-speed broadband services to one or more households, businesses, or community anchor points in an unserved area (previously did not limit the exemption to such entities that provide or support the services in an unserved area). Defines unserved area to mean a location where inhabitants or businesses do not have access to high-speed broadband services. Makes organizational changes.
Modifies proposed GS 117-28.1 to now allow any easement owned, held, or otherwise used by an electric membership corporation for the purpose of electrification, as stated in GS 117-10, to also use the corporation, or its wholly owned subsidiary (previously did not specify wholly owned), for the ancillary purpose of supplying high-speed broadband service (previously did not specify ancillary purpose). Adds a limitation requiring that the use cannot require additional construction and must be ancillary to the electrification purposes for which broadband fiber is or was installed. Makes conforming changes to more specifically refer to wholly-owned subsidiaries.
Summary date: Mar 19 2019 - View summary
Includes whereas clauses.
GS 117-18.1 allows electric membership corporations to form, organize, acquire, hold, dispose of, and operate any interest in separate business entities that provide energy services and products, telecommunications services and products, water, and wastewater collection and treatment, so long as those other business entities meet the five specified conditions. Those conditions include: (1) they are not financed with loans or grants from the Rural Utilities Service of the US Department of Agriculture or the USDA or with similar financing from any successor agency and (2) they fully compensate the electric membership corporation for the use of personnel, services, equipment, or tangible and intangible property, the greater of a competitive price or the electric membership corporation's fully distributed costs. Amends GS 117-18.1 by exempting from these two conditions the separate business activities of an electric membership corporation that forms, organizes, acquires, holds, disposes of, or operates any interest in a separate business entity that provides or supports high-speed broadband services to one or more households, businesses, or community anchor points.
Enacts new GS 117-28.1 allowing any easement owned, held, or otherwise used by an electric membership corporation for the purpose in GS 117-10 (allowing formation of a corporation for the purpose of promoting and encouraging the fullest possible use of electric energy in the rural section of the State by making electric energy available to inhabitants of the State at the lowest cost consistent with sound economy and prudent management of the business of such corporations) to also be used by the corporation, or its subsidiary, to supply telecommunications and broadband service. Provides that a class action may not be maintained against an electric membership corporation or its subsidiary in a suit in trespass or inverse condemnation based on a claim of expanded use of an easement. Sets out additional provisions concerning a suit in trespass or inverse condemnation based on a claim of expanded use of an easement brought by an individual property owner. Requires that a property owner's actual damages be fixed at the time of the initial trespass. Upon payment of damages, grants the corporation a permanent easement for the trespass that was the subject of the claim.