RALEIGH, NC (WECT) - The North Carolina House of Representatives passed House Bill 68, also known as the BRIGHT Futures Act, on Thursday by a 109-8 vote.
Connecting rural residents to broadband services and helping underserved regions attract economic development opportunities are the goals of the bill, according to a release from the General Assembly.
The BRIGHT Futures Act stands for Broadband, Retail, Internet of Things, Gridpower, Healthcare and Training, all emerging markets of the digital age that are critical to creating jobs and spurring economic investment in North Carolina.
Columbus County Rep. Brenden Jones (R) said the bill could have a major effect on the county's residents.
"I represent some of the lowest income areas in the state and access to broadband is extremely limited," Jones said. "It is vital that citizens living in our rural and underserved areas have access to technology tools of the 21st century."
House Bill 68 is sponsored by Reps. John Szoka (R-Cumberland), Jason Saine (R-Lincoln), Susan Martin (R-Wilson) and Jones. It facilitates the development of digital infrastructure in rural areas by allowing local governments to partner with private internet providers and bring wired services to their residents.
Ensuring connectivity of underserved areas will help students learn from home, allow medical professionals to provide telehealth options and create infrastructure jobs by enabling local governments to lease excess infrastructure to internet providers.