AN ACT TO MAKE VARIOUS CHANGES TO THE STATE'S BROADBAND INFRASTRUCTURE GRANT PROGRAMS.
Enacts GS 143B-1373.3, directing the Broadband Infrastructure Office (Office) in the Department of Information Technology (DIT) to accept and score applications and award grants for eligible projects in the manner prescribed for the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) program in GS 143B-1373. Provides for the definitions applicable to the GREAT program to apply to the new statute, except for new definitions set forth for broadband service, eligible project, infrastructure and infrastructure costs, and unserved area. Defines eligible project as a discrete and specific project located in an unserved economically distressed area seeking to provide broadband service to homes, businesses, and community anchor points not currently served; provides for projects that span more than one county. Excludes end users capable of receiving broadband service outside of the project area from being counted for purposes of scoring project applications. Establishes distinct scoring for eligible project applications for households costs by region and speed of bringing the service to end users from those prescribed for the GREAT program in GS 143B-1373. Allows providers to protest that a proposed project area does not meet the statute's unserved requirements. Includes raised points for projects that also provide customers mobile broadband within the same project area, do not require new tower construction, and construct up to four new towers and have an estimated cost per household or business under specified thresholds based on region.
Authorizes the Office to allocate up to $5 million each fiscal year in State funds for the grants, with authority to exceed this cap with State funds appropriated for broadband grants if available State funds exceed grant awards for terrestrially based projects.
Revises Section 7, SL 2019-230, increasing the transfer of funds from the General Fund to the State Capital and Infrastructure Fund from $15 million to $20 million for each fiscal year from the 2019-20 fiscal year through the 2028-29 fiscal year. Makes a corresponding increase in the amount of the appropriation in those years. Effective July 1, 2022, and applies only to fiscal years occurring on or after that date.
Effective July 1, 2022.
Revises Section 38.4 of SL 2021-180, increasing the grant caps for broadband infrastructure grants under the GREAT program. Sets the limit for a single grant at $8 million (was, $4 million), and grant awards involving any single county at $32 million (was, $8 million).
Further amends Section 38.4 of SL 2021-180 to adjust and add to the points permitted for scoring broadband infrastructure grants applications related to points awarded for counties that provide a portion of a project's matching funds entirely from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, based on the aggregate amount of funds the county received directly from the federal government and the amount of a county's match. Additionally, eliminates the reduction of the matching requirement provided for counties that provide for a portion of their matching funds from ARPA funds. Effective July 1, 2022.
Amends GREAT program requirements in GS 143B-1373 as follows. Requires private providers to disclose written documentation justifying a proposed project time line of greater than two years. Requires a protected project area to remain protected until the earlier of project completion or three years (was, until completion). Adds that the project area protection does not prohibit another eligible project from deploying broadband infrastructure in a protected project area if that broadband infrastructure is necessary to provide broadband service to the unserved area identified in the grant application. Adds a new provision to prohibit protests of applications proposing deployment of broadband infrastructure in a protected area. Establishes that an application proposing the deployment of broadband infrastructure in a projected project area cannot be awarded points for any portion of the applicant's proposed project area situated within a protected project area. Authorizes the Office to prioritize applications that do not exceed the two-year time line.
Further amends Section 38.4, SL 2021-180, concerning broadband infrastructure grants under the GREAT program, adding that the project area protection does not prohibit another eligible project from deploying broadband infrastructure in a protected project area if that broadband infrastructure is necessary to provide broadband service to the unserved area identified in the grant application. Similar to the GREAT program amendments, adds a new provision to prohibit protests of applications proposing deployment of broadband infrastructure in a protected area. Requires scoring of applications based on the metrics provided for grants under the GREAT program in GS 143B-1373(g), as modified. Requires awarding an additional point to projects where a county has a Community Broadband Planning Playbook that meets the Office's established guidelines. Establishes that an application proposing the deployment of broadband infrastructure in a projected project area cannot be awarded points for any portion of the applicant's proposed project area situated within a protected project area. Effective July 1, 2022.
Changes the base speed multiplier used to score GREAT program applications under GS 143B-1373(g), increasing the minimum upload speeds for 1.35 and 1.75 multipliers.
Allows the Office of State Budget and Management to reallocate State Fiscal Recovery Fund funds appropriated if four criteria are met, including that the funds were recouped and unallocated or otherwise unexpended on December 31, 2022, the reallocation is made to support the broadband infrastructure project grants under Sections 38.4 and 38.6, SL 2021-180 (Section 38.6 being the Completing Access to Broadband program), and OSBM reports to the specified NCGA division on reallocations made.
States legislative intent to use funds received from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act intended for broadband for the benefit of broadband infrastructure grants, with appropriations in specified percentages to DIT for each of the grant programs set forth in Sections 38.4 and 38.6, SL 2021-180.
© 2022 School of Government The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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