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  • Summary date: May 27 2020 - View Summary

    Enacts GS 143B-1374, creating the Satellite-Based Broadband Grant Fund (Fund) within the Department of Information Technology (DIT). Provides that funds in the Fund do not revert, and that appropriated funds to the Fund are considered an information technology project for specified state law purposes. 

    Provides for the DIT Secretary to prescribe and accept applications and sets forth grant application requirements. Directs DIT's Broadband Infrastructure Office (Office) to award grants to applicants that will provide access to the greatest number of unserved households, as defined to exclude households awarded a grant from the Growing Great Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) program. Grants highest priority to satellite-based providers proposing the provision of broadband service to the greatest number of unserved households situated in census tracts that have been identified as significantly unserved by the Office, even if the proposed area contains portions of households with broadband service. Defines broadband service to mean internet access service, regardless of the technology or medium used to provide the service, with transmission speeds that are equal to or great than the requirements for the minimum performance tier and with latency equal to or lesser than the requirements for low latency, as both metrics are provided in the identified FCC report, released February 7, 2020. Caps the aggregate amount of total liability for the grants awarded at $4 million, and the total annual liability for grants awarded in a single calendar year at $2.5 million. Provides a formula for grant amounts. 

    Restricts grant award eligibility to the household maintaining broadband service with the grantee for at least 85% of the year the grantee seeks the award. Caps the total grant award for a single household at $500. Requires grantees to annually submit documentation to the Office for verification of eligibility of subscriptions. 

    Requires the Office to enter into an agreement with each grantee that meets 17 specifications, including (1) the total number of unserved households the grantee anticipates subscribing to its broadband service, (2) a guarantee that the grantee will maintain its service to the area, or another Office approved area, for at least five years, and (3) a provision describing grant measurement and administration. Requires all agreements to be reviewed by the Attorney General. Requires the agreement to be personally signed by the Attorney General to be effective against the State. Deems the agreements binding upon the State and not subject to legislative appropriations of State funds.

    Authorizes the Office to reduce the grant, amend agreement terms, or terminate the agreement if the grantee beaches the agreement. Mandates termination if the Office finds that the grantee manipulated or attempted to manipulate date to increase the amount of the grant, in addition to recapturing grant funds disbursed in the corresponding year. 

    Requires grantees to certify availability of the proposed minimum upstream and downstream broadband speeds throughout the project area during the term of the agreement prior to any end user connection. Conditions annual disbursement upon annual certification of compliance with the agreement. Requires Office access to evidence for compliance verification.

    Provides for accounting and distribution of grant funds. States legislative intent to appropriate sufficient funds to the program to meet anticipated cash requirements each fiscal year.

    Requires that grantees include the proposed advertised minimum download and maximum upload speeds and subscription cost in the application for a five-year agreement. Requires annual attestation to the availability of speeds specified, or faster speeds, in the agreement, and report and changes to data caps for the project that differ from the grant application.

    Requires annual reporting by the grantee for the duration of the agreement. Specifies required content of the reports.

    Establishes an annual reporting requirement for DIT to report to the specified NCGA committee and division, by September 1, with six required components regarding the program.

    Appropriates $2.5 million in recurring funds from the General Fund to the Fund for the 2020-21 fiscal year. Effective July 1, 2020.