Rural Broadband Kick-Start Bill Clears NC Legislative Panel

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Lawmakers have taken their first substantive step this year in an effort to expand broadband to small-town and rural North Carolina through partnerships between local governments and internet providers.

A House committee voted Wednesday for the measure, which would allow 70 counties, and cities within them, to build infrastructure for lease to private broadband providers.

Local governments could raise property taxes to build the networks and offer grants to providers to expand in unserved areas.

The bill passed 13-9 despite opposition from telecommunications companies and associations that are unhappy with what they say would become unfair competition from governments.

Supporters say the private sector has failed in offering widespread high-speed internet in sparsely populated areas.

The bill must clear two more committees before it reaches the House floor.

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