From The Executive Director – April 2017

Posted: April 18, 2017

Broadband Accessibility Act is meaningful legislation

Levoy Knowles, TTA Executive Director

The recently passed Broadband Accessibility Act is meaningful in every sense of the word.

First of all, it’s meaningful to rural Tennesseeans who now have a much better opportunity to be served with a broadband connection that is so critical to their quality of life.

It’s meaningful to TTA members who now have opportunities and incentives to expand their networks through grants and partnerships.

It’s certainly meaningful to Gov. Bill Haslam and the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Mark Norris and Rep. David Hawk. The administration took a calculated political risk by making this bill one of its key pieces of legislation this session, and that has proven to be a wise decision. 

But for just a moment, I’d like to talk about how meaningful the passage of this bill is for TTA. The final version of this bill reflects years of effort on multiple fronts from TTA and its members. I am so pleased that all of our hard work had an impact.

TTA members have made a special effort to meet with legislators in the districts over the past two or three years, adding to the awareness at our Day on the Hill visits each February.

Our lobbying team at The Capitol Strategy Group, including Kim Adkins, Steve Buttry and Randy Button were essential to TTA members having the attention of our legislators with all of the other issues demanding their focus during the sessions. We also worked with communications partners Cooley Strategies and WordSouth to garner media coverage and engage our members through efforts such as this newsletter and our website.

I’ll be the first to say the bill is not perfect, but considering where the discussion was two or three years ago, this bill is certainly a positive outcome for TTA members. TTA and our allies were able to shift legislators’ focus away from the municipal providers that would have unfairly pitted government agencies against private companies and instead direct them toward shaping policy to center on electric cooperatives — providing a chance for some valuable partnership opportunities.

It’s been a privilege to represent our industry on this important legislation, and I believe TTA members and their rural customers will be able to look back at the passage of this act and say it’s an example of what Tennessee’s rural telcos can do when they work together. With that in mind, TTA is now focused on other issues at hand, including the long-standing ad valorem tax disparity many of our members face.

One thing we know going forward, Tennessee’s rural telcos have made our voices heard in the halls of state government, and we will continue to fight for our members and their customers.