State 53rd District Rep. David Lewis of Dunn has released his list of priorities for the 2018 legislative session and broadband access sits at the top.
Mr. Lewis listed broadband followed by health care, workforce development and economic development and taxes as the top four issues.
“These issues are very important to me, as I know they are to you,” he said in a recent newsletter to constituents. “As we build solutions to better the lives of all North Carolinians, I look forward to hearing comments and feedback.”
Rep. Lewis placed broadband at the top of the list for several reasons, not the least of which was its impact on all facets of society.
“High-speed internet access has transitioned from a luxury to a necessity of our 21st-century economy,” he said. “It is needed for economic growth in North Carolina, yet many rural communities throughout the state do not have access to broadband services because of their under-developed infrastructure.”
In his newsletter, Rep. Lewis not only explains why he feels efforts to expand have not been successful, he also throws blame on the providers involved.
“Government efforts to support broadband expansion have seen little to no success,” Rep. Lewis said. “In the past, grant programs that were intended to boost broadband expansion efforts have been consistently awarded to service providers that fail to make necessary investments in infrastructure.”
Rep. Lewis goes further, citing a need for public-private partnerships in order to see expansion take place. He would like to see government develop the base and partner with service providers to take the next step.
“In order to get fiber out to people across the state, governments — federal, state, county and local — should be able to invest in fiber infrastructure, and in turn, lease them to the service providers who sell access to the consumer,” he said. “We have to do something so that the people of this state can be connected to our ever-evolving world.”
Rep. Lewis also noted how the reach of broadband includes educational opportunities for those living in rural areas, and how important that connection is to economic growth.
“Connecting the workforce provides economic stimulus and educational advancements as individuals in rural areas gain a better connection to the infinite resources available online, allowing them to work and learn from home,” he said. “We need to ensure that all North Carolinians are equipped with the tools necessary for sustainable economic growth, and that includes Internet access.”
Rep. Lewis also added his public support to the recently adopted Harnett County Promise between the Harnett County Board of Commissioners and Central Carolina Community College. The program offers the chance for students who meet the requirements to receive a tuition-free degree from CCCC.
“Harnett County is partnering with Central Carolina Community College to expand educational opportunities for high school graduates in Harnett County,” he said. “The Harnett County Promise is a pilot program designed to give high school graduates from the county — or a home-schooled student residing in the county — a chance to receive funding to attend Central Carolina Community College for two years. Students in the program will be required to exhaust all other educational funding avenues prior to receiving money from the Harnett County Promise.”