Dish Network settlement money may go to expand broadband access

Attorney General Josh Stein speaks at the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh. Photo via N.C. Dept. of Public Safety

RALEIGH — Students and citizens in rural areas may see a broadband access boost from a settlement agreement related to illegal telemarketing calls announced on Dec. 7.

In a press release, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said that a $210 million settlement with Dish Network had been reached. $126 million of that sum will be paid to the federal government, and the remainder will go to the states, with $13,986,000 headed to North Carolina.

Stein’s release said the penalty is the “largest ever obtained” in the state for violations of do-not-call laws. The lawsuit against Dish Network dates back to 2009, when Gov. Roy Cooper served as the North Carolina attorney general.

“Companies cannot use aggressive tactics to take people’s hard-earned money,” Stein said in a statement. “That’s why do-not-call and telemarketing protections exist, and I’ll continue fighting to hold companies and bad actors accountable when they violate these protections and go after North Carolinians.”

The settlement includes the attorneys general of California, Illinois, North Carolina and Ohio, and the Federal Trade Commission.

During his first four years of serving as attorney general, Stein has made robo-calls and violations of the do-not-call registry a focus. North Carolina citizens can report robocalls or illegal telemarketing calls to Stein’s office by visiting www.ncdoj.gov/norobo or through a dedicated robo-report hotline at 1-844-8-NO-ROBO.

Stein urged the General Assembly “to consider ways to use these funds to address broadband access in North Carolina.”

“This pandemic has underscored the importance of addressing the gaps in broadband access,” said Stein in the release. Stein went on to say there are children in rural areas counting on broadband for schoolwork and that “Education is the best way to invest in our children’s futures and to level the playing field — access to reliable internet is imperative to students’ success.”

Earlier this month, Cooper’s office had rescinded CARES Act funding allocated by the legislature which the governor had signed into law more than 75 days ago. State legislators said Cooper did not inform them of his intention to revoke the $30 million appropriated to support the state’s rural broadband grant program.

After a series of letters between lawmakers and Cooper, an agreement about the disputed rural broadband funding was reached on Dec. 10.

About A.P. Dillon 403 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_