TN Telecommunications Association Encouraged By Passage Of Bill To Expand Rural Broadband

Posted: April 11, 2017

Governor’s legislation provides grants, opens way to electric coops

The Tennessee Telecommunications Association said Monday that passage of the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act is a good first step toward making broadband available to more rural Tennesseans.

“This is a major step in the right direction,” said Levoy Knowles, executive director of TTA.

“As providers of high-speed broadband and fiber to a large portion of rural Tennessee, we know there are still places that need to get connected. This is an issue that won’t be fixed overnight.

“But our members, both the independent companies and the cooperatives, are optimistic about working with the electric coops to make broadband available to many more rural Tennesseans.”

David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of TECA, said: “The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association supports the Governor’s Broadband Accessibility Act. Expanded access to high-speed Internet in rural areas can have a profound impact on job creation, economic investment, education, and health care.

“Electric and telephone co-ops serve the state’s most rural and economically disadvantaged regions. The Governor’s legislation will now allow electric cooperatives to play a vital role in bringing broadband to these underserved areas.

“With our joint dedication and presence in these rural areas, electric and telephone cooperatives have a great opportunity to work together to meet this challenge.”

The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act is a signature piece of Governor Haslam’s 2017 legislative initiatives. It is aimed at promoting expansion of broadband into unserved rural areas. Some of the provisions:

• Allows electric coops to provide broadband service separately from their electric power service.
• Also permits the electric coops to provide video/cable TV service.
• Provides $30 million in grants and $15 million in tax breaks to encourage expansion of rural broadband into areas without access.

TTA represents 21 independent and cooperatively owned telecom cooperatives and independent companies that make high-speed broadband or fiber available to more than 136,000 rural Tennesseans. They have installed more than 12,000 miles of fiber in rural areas across the state.