Speaker of the N.C. House Joe Hackney has decided the House’s standing Ways & Means committee should become the Ways & Means/Broadband Connectivity committee.

That may seem more than a bit random. Here are two explanations:

Broadband access is a big issue for Hackney, who says lack of access to high-speed Internet service in tops the list of constituent complaints. “We get a lot of inquiries,” Hackney told the Indy. His staffers are sometimes able to help residents by communicating directly with the phone and cable companies that serve their area.

But many of those residents don’t find satisfaction because service isn’t available where they live. So during the last session, Hackney formed the House Select Committee on High Speed Internet in Rural Areas. Right before the new session began, that temporary committee submitted its report (PDF), which included proposed legislation and the recommendation that their work continue.

The chairman of that committee is Rep. Bill Faison (D-Orange, Caswell), who also happened to be chair of House Ways & Means. So Hackney thought it was natural to combine those tasks.

“It seems to me that we are poised to make the big jump here toward universal broadband with the stimulus package and the Obama administration’s full weight behind it,” Hackney said. “So I thought that we need to have a committee of the House working on it. That will be part of their duties; the committee will do other things as well.”

See this Wednesday’s issue of the Independent for an in-depth look at the frustration of Chatham County residents without broadband Internet access.