Broadband Assessment Underway: Q&A With Governor’s Fellow Amanda Martin

Posted: March 21, 2016

Amanda Martin serves as a 2016 Governor’s Fellow overseeing the Broadband Assessment for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

Amanda Martin (center) recently visited with TTA Executive Director Levoy Knowles (left) and HTC CEO Mark Patterson at the association's annual Day On The Hill.
Amanda Martin (center) recently visited with TTA Executive Director Levoy Knowles (left) and HTC CEO Mark Patterson at the association’s annual Day On The Hill.

Originally from Oneida, Tennessee, Martin shares TTA’s enthusiasm for bringing broadband to all Tennesseeans, and she is pleased with the feedback from the assessment so far. “Thank you to all of the TTA members who encouraged participation in assessment,” she said. “We exceeded our targets and had excellent participation across all areas of the state.”

The TNECD’s study is one of two studies underway this year. The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) is also conducting a study regarding broadband development and deployment in the state that is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

Martin, who graduated from Pepperdine University School of Law in 2014, took a few minutes to answer questions for TTA Members.

What is the goal of the broadband assessment and why should it matter to telcos? How will the study be used?

The goal of the Broadband Assessment is to provide data around broadband access, adoption and utilization in Tennessee. This is a part of TNECD’s Broadband Initiative, which will provide decision makers information about broadband needs in Tennessee and options for the state to ensure necessary connectivity in each Tennessee community. This initiative is important to current broadband providers because the state is looking at options to increase access and utilization across Tennessee.

What is the timeline for the study?

The deadline for the assessment surveys was March 15, and the final report for the initiative will be released in June.

This is one of two studies the state is doing on broadband this year. How will the two studies differ?

The scope and process for TACIR’s study is different from TNECD’s Broadband Initiative. TACIR’s study will address a number of questions posed to the research team related to broadband. TNECD’s initiative is designed to answer four main questions: (1) How should we define broadband in Tennessee; (2) What are the penetration rates for broadband; (3) How much will it cost to ensure all communities have the connectivity that they need; and (4) What are the best practices from other states in addressing these issues. The goal of TNECD’s initiative is to help define the problem more clearly and offer a menu of options to decision makers about what the state can do to address identified gaps. TNCED and TACIR have been collaborating to ensure that these studies are complementary and not duplicative.

Are there any particular areas or types of areas in the state where you are seeing a high or low response rate?

Some areas initially had lower response rates. In order to address this, we worked with our partners (including TTA members) to encourage additional participation in those areas. We also conducted phone outreach in about two-thirds of the counties to ensure participation across the state.

How do you think your upbringing in rural Tennessee gives you a different perspective on the project?

Living in Oneida allowed me to see both the difficulties that many rural areas face in accessing the technologies they need to compete and the work that many TTA members, like Highland Telephone Cooperative, are doing in their service area to ensure that their communities have access to broadband.

The Governor’s Management Fellowship embeds Fellows with cabinet-level departments and involves those Fellows in major initiatives in that department.