North Carolina’s technology bureau is seeking public comment on a draft of the state’s digital equity plan, which addresses high-speed internet affordability, access to devices and digital literacy over the next five years.
The Division of Broadband and Digital Equity’s 138-page draft is accessible online, with an executive summary available in both English and Spanish. It’s open for public comment via email until noon on Jan. 2.
“Thank you to the many local organizations and individuals across the state who contributed to this plan by sharing their wisdom and lived experiences,” Nate Denny, division deputy secretary for broadband and digital equity, said in a press release.
The plan identifies the need for all state residents to have fast, reliable internet access, focusing on covered populations identified by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, including seniors, incarcerated individuals, minorities, low-income households, rural communities, those with a language barrier or disability, veterans and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The department hosted 23 listening sessions to better understand the needs of North Carolinians and distributed the state’s first Digital Equity Survey in August to assess broadband needs and barriers to entry.
As a part of the public comment process, the division is building a list of all organizations across the state that provide services or programs to support internet affordability, access to computers and digital devices, digitals skills and literacy, tech support and free Wi-Fi. The state plans to publish the list next year.
After revising the plan to reflect public comments, the division plans to submit the proposal to National Telecommunications and Information Administration by Jan. 14 for approval.
“We are moving forward as quickly as we can to ensure all North Carolinians have the resources and skills they need to access and benefit from digital opportunities,” Denny said.