NCTNA logo. Telehealth and healthcare broadband internet in North Carolina

NCHBC Monthly Bulletin: February 2023

Share this post:

NC Healthcare Broadband Bulletin


As we begin 2024, this edition of the NC Healthcare Broadband Bulletin catches our readers up on the work of North Carolina’s Division of Broadband and Digital Equity’s over the last year or so.  The Division of Broadband & Digital Equity is charged with expanding the state’s broadband infrastructure to unserved and underserved residents, small businesses, and community anchor institutions. In addition, its charge includes other digital inclusion work that addresses obstacle to broadband adoption like affordability, digital literacy, and device access.  By 2025, the Division aims to ensure 98% of households have broadband internet access with 80% subscribing to the internet and 100% of households with children have internet subscriptions.

To this end, the Division is undertaking several programs to promote broadband infrastructure access and to diminish other obstacles that perpetuate the digital divide. The Division has two major funding sources and several related programs that it relies on to secure and allocate broadband funding for North Carolina residents, small businesses, and community anchor institutions (e.g. healthcare organizations). Funding is provided with the NC legislature’s approval and includes more than $1 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and over $1.5 billion from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. The ARPA funding supports the ongoing Growing Rural Economic with Access to Technology (GREAT) grants program, the Completing Access to Broadband (CAB) program, and several other smaller but important planning and deployment programs and activities, and the BEAD funding supports a major broadband deployment program that is intended to eliminate the digital divide that remains after the ongoing ARPA-funded programs. Finally, the Division’s Office of Digital Equity and Literacy has initiated two programs intended to allocate $24M to support digital inclusion activities by state agencies and institutions of higher education and by eligible community representatives like local governments, county libraries, K-12 school systems, and nonprofit organizations.

The Division of Broadband & Digital Equity Update

In 2023 the Division’s Broadband Infrastructure Office has committed roughly 40% of the ARPA funds. It has reviewed 104 GREAT grants applications across fifty-six counties, selected awardees, and closed the program. All $350M of program funding has been designated.  Established in 2018 the GREAT grants program has connected over 117,000 households and small businesses.

The CAB program is underway. It is “a competitive bidding program that provides an opportunity for individual North Carolina County governments to partner with NCDIT to fund broadband infrastructure projects in unserved and underserved areas of each county.” Overall, $400M will be allocated to participating counties and internet service providers.  In June 2023, the Division released an request for proposal (RFP) to qualify internet service providers (ISP) to participate in a statewide convenience contract. ISP’s must qualify to participate in this contract to be eligible for CAB participation. In addition, counties must establish a local scope of work related to their proposed broadband projects to be eligible for CAB participation. The ISP, the county, and the state will contribute roughly a third each to the overall funding of the project. In September 2023, the Division announced it had completed the first round of CAB funding. Totaling $22M and serving 14 counties, the first round will connect over 6000 households and 164 businesses. In 2024, the Division plans to allocate the remaining $600M of ARPA funding through the CAB, Stop-Gap funding, the Pole Replacement, and other digital equity programs.

Currently, the Division is preparing to undertake the BEAD program. Based on the FCC’s National Broadband Map (with challenges from the Division and from other organizations like the NC Healthcare Broadband Coalition), NC has been designated to receive $1.53B in from the National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA) in the Department of Commerce.  These funds will be made available once the Division has completed several steps to assure NTIA that NC is prepared to receive and allocate these funds. First, the Division developed its five-year BEAD plan. This plan outlines how the state will invest BEAD funding across North Carolina. It leverages the division’s ongoing grant programs, community engagement, and digital inclusion initiatives, and it details the division’s past and ongoing collaboration with state agencies and local and private sector stakeholders.  The plan was drafted and approved by NTIA in August of 2023. In December, the Division followed up the approved plan with its Initial Proposal.  The Initial Proposal serves as a “first draft” of North Carolina’s final proposal. It outlines how NC will meet the BEAD program goals. It consists of two volumes. Volume one focuses on North Carolina’s challenge process which is intended to correct errors in mapping unserved and underserved locations, and volume two lays out North Carolina’s implementation strategy. The Initial Proposal has been submitted to NTIA for approval. The approval process involves several phases including completion of the state’s challenge.

Finally, the division’s Office of Digital Equity and Literacy has initiated its digital equity grant program. In the first phase, it has allocated $10M to state agencies and institutions of higher education to develop or expand their digital inclusion work and to foster inter-agency collaboration. It has also initiated phase two, launching a competitive grant process for municipalities, nonprofits, community-based organizations, and other key stakeholder groups. Fourteen million dollars will be allocated to promote local digital inclusion work. Applications have been received and are currently under review. The Office has also completed its Digital Equity Plan. “This plan is a comprehensive strategy that aims to ensure that all individuals and communities have access to the digital tools, resources, and skills they need to fully participate in today’s digital world.” It addresses the needs of “covered individuals” (e.g. aging individuals, rural residents, members of racial or ethnic minority groups) focusing on affordability, access to online resources, digital literacy, cybersecurity and privacy, and access to devices.


Both the governor and the legislature appreciate the vital role that broadband access and digital inclusion does and will play in the life of North Carolina residents and businesses. Their support is apparent in unprecedented funding to eliminate the digital divide in North Carolina.  Fair and effective distribution of these funds is a complex and time-consuming process. In collaboration with NTIA, the Division of Broadband and Digital Equity has accomplished a lot over the last year and is well-positioned to make greater progress during this upcoming year.

Stay Connected

More Updates

HCF Updates

May 26, 2023


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has released a new Order that will reform its Rural Health Care (RHC) program, including a constituent of the RHC known as the Healthcare Connect

HCF Updates

May 26, 2023

NCTNA Renewal Success

Over the last year, the majority of NCTN subscribers have come to the end of their initial contracts and have been faced with the choice to renew their services or

HCF Updates

May 26, 2023

Latest & Greatest Healthcare Connect Fund News

The NC Telehealth Network Association (NCTNA) recently worked with the Schools, Health, and Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition to respond to an FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) that asked some