Gov. Cooper talks digital divide on visit to Charlotte

Cooper said the state now has the funding to tackle the digital divide through the American Rescue Plan and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

CHARLOTTE, NC — There are thousands of North Carolinians who don’t have solid access to the internet. State leaders now coming up with ways to bridge those technology gaps.

Gov. Roy Cooper visited Charlotte Wednesday to join Microsoft in highlighting digital equity initiatives in North Carolina.

“More than a million North Carolinians are on the wrong side of the digital divide,” Cooper said.

The pandemic shined a spotlight on how essential the internet is to people’s lives and that a lot of people still don’t have the right broadband access.

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Cooper said the state now has the funding to tackle the digital divide through the American Rescue Plan and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

According to data from Digital Charlotte, about 55,000 households in Mecklenburg County still don’t have access to fast internet.

“Historically residents in marginalized communities have been left out of the digital economy, digital infrastructure,” Bruce Clark with Queens University said. “It mirrors other challenges we have in the community, so if we see a food desert it’s likely a internet desert. ”

Clark is also the executive director of Digital Charlotte.

Now, the focus is on closing the digital divide. Charlotte and Mecklenburg County leaders also gathered to show their support for expanding internet access.

“We’re talking about a comprehensive approach to get everybody in North Carolina connected to high-speed internet,” Cooper said. “We know how important it is for education, for telemedicine, to connect small business to global markets.”

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Earlier this year, Governor Cooper unveiled a new Office of Digital Equity and Literacywhich will spearhead efforts to sue federal dollars to close the digital divide in the state.

It will focus on infrastructure and access, affordability, and digital literacy. Cooper calls it a holistic approach that will be successful.

“You got to have access to high-speed internet, some of us take that for granted because we’ve had it a long time but a lot of people don’t have it and that’s what this is about,” Cooper said.

For low-income families who need help now, the Affordable Connectivity Program gives a $30 subsidy a month to those who qualify.

Contact Lexi Wilson at lwilson@wcnc.com and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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