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NC Towns And Cities Push For Expanded Broadband

Broadband internet, computers,

The North Carolina League of Municipalities is pushing state lawmakers to help expand high-speed Internet access, particularly in rural areas. 

The group released a report Wednesday that says more than 600,000 North Carolinians do not have access to broadband Internet, and the private sector won't fill the gaps because it is not profitable. The group says that is hurting business opportunities.

Angier Mayor Lew Weatherspoon says his town needs a business park to keep expanding startups from relocating elsewhere.

"We have entrepreneurs at home businesses that provide valuable services, but without high-speed Internet - without broadband - that business park can't become a reality and it would serve no purpose," he said at a press conference Wednesday.

The FCC's most recent report says about 20 percent of rural North Carolina does not have high-speed Internet access. 

"We have students and senior citizens who park daily in front of our senior center building. We thought something was going on, but no, they're sitting in their vehicles accessing our Internet because they can't do it at home," said Jacque Hampton, clerk for the town of Bolton in rural Columbus County.

The League of Municipalities wants the General Assembly to approve laws that make it clear local governments can enter public-private partnerships to expand coverage, and offer investments like bonds, taxes and economic incentives. A bill that includes such provisions stalled in the state Senate last year.

Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.
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