Connecting Counties Playbook
On August 13, 2022, NCACC President and Washington County Commissioner Tracey Johnson announced her presidential initiative, Connecting Counties, which aims to expand broadband across counties in North Carolina.
From NCACC President and Washington County Commissioner
I have been a longtime advocate for expanding broadband access throughout North Carolina. The state's lack of broadband connectivity affects my community in Washington County and it also affects me personally. An estimated 42% of Washington County households have a broadband internet subscription, making it the 5th least connected county in the state. Statewide, the rate of broadband subscribers is 75%, largely due to barriers to access, which lags behind the national average by 10%. Right now, in many places across the state, a child cannot submit their homework online unless they drive to a McDonalds' parking lot for internet; and there are grandparents who can't FaceTime with their grandchildren due to lack of connectivity. We are 100 counties strong but not quite connected yet. North Carolina’s lack of broadband is unacceptable.
Broadband is the amount of data sent through a connection to access high-speed internet. The more bandwidth or capacity, the more data someone can send or receive. I am blessed to have the opportunity to work with this great Association and passionate county leaders who have the bandwidth to improve their counties' economy, healthcare, and residents' lives. That inspired me to create my presidential initiative, the 100 Counties Connected Task Force, which focused on developing resources for counties to help them explore the opportunities for broadband expansion. The task force, composed of county commissioners and staff, represents regions spanning from Buncombe County to Bertie County.
Task force members include:
Tracey Johnson, Washington County, NCACC President
Ron Wesson, Bertie County, Co-Chair
Steve Morris, Cabarrus County, Co-Chair
Johnnie Carswell, Burke County, President-Elect
Randy Cress, Rowan County, Assistant County Manager
Jesse Dowe, Duplin County, County Commissioner
Keith Elmore, Wilkes County, County Commissioner
Nina Griswell, Tyrrell County, County Commissioner
Tim Love, Buncombe County, Intergovernmental Affairs
Bryan Miller, Caswell County, County Manager
Shinica Thomas, Wake County, County Commissioner
Charlie Wallin, Watauga County, County Commissioner
Ralph Webb, Edgecombe County, County Commissioner
Terri Wells, Buncombe County, County Commissioner
Broadband is a complex topic. The task force began its work with a deep dive into the history of broadband in North Carolina to understand the current landscape. The task force met regularly with subject matter experts, including leadership and specialists from the North Carolina Department of Information Technology (NCDIT) to understand the barriers to broadband expansion, best practices for counties, and opportunities for funding. Additionally, the task force met with some of North Carolina's largest internet service providers to build relationships and establish effective communication channels between providers and commissioners to identify how local governments can engage and be effective partners in the deployment process.
I have traveled across the state and nation representing North Carolina counties' best interests. I have brought the county voice to Washington, D.C. and the national stage by working with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and meeting with U.S. Senators Ted Budd and Thom Tillis.
Through numerous Connecting Counties Task Force meetings and learning from the nation's foremost leaders on broadband, we have gathered the most important information, considerations, and best practices we have learned into a "Broadband Playbook" for counties to use as a comprehensive resource.
I am grateful to my task force co-chairs, Cabarrus County Board Chair Steve Morris and Bertie County Board Chair Ron Wesson, as well as all the task force members for their dedication and hard work. We’re also grateful for the partnerships with NCDIT and state and federal partners. I hope that this resource serves North Carolina counties well and assists them in connecting our great state.
NCACC President and Washington County Commissioner