TTA members discuss rural broadband with legislators during Day on the Hill

Tennessee Telecommunications Association member companies met with key legislators, including Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and Speaker of the House Glen Casada.

Rural broadband leaders from the TTA met with members of the Tennessee Assembly in Nashville April 2 to discuss the progress being made in advancing broadband connectivity in rural Tennessee.

The annual Day on the Hill started with a breakfast during which TTA members answered questions from state officials and shared the story of rural broadband. Lawmakers witnessed a presentation of how optical fiber, a key to expanding broadband in rural Tennessee, is spliced together during a network build.

Representatives from TTA met with Sen. Paul Bailey, chairman of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, to discuss bill SB1458, which he is sponsoring. The bill seeks to clarify a tax change that would hinder broadband deployment across the state by placing a tax on fiber installation. Levoy Knowles, TTA executive director, appeared before the Senate Finance Revenue Subcommittee to speak on behalf of Sen. Bailey’s bill, which would reverse the recent tax requirement.

“The governor and the legislature have put an emphasis on building broadband to rural Tennesseans and are using state grants to help us reach the most remote residents of the state,” said Knowles. “It’s counterproductive to then impose a new tax on the projects our members are funding in part with those grants.”

Throughout the day, TTA members shared the story of how cooperative and independent telcos are working to build fiber networks to connect rural Tennessee and the importance of the state’s partnership and support of those efforts. Members met with various senators to thank them for their support of the Broadband Accessibility Grants program.

This year, eight TTA cooperatives and commercial telcos received more than $8 million in state broadband grants, earning a majority of the grants awarded by the Department of Economic and Community Development.

Those present for the Day on the Hill included more than 20 TTA representatives from Bledsoe Telephone Cooperative, Ben Lomand Connect, DTC Communications, Highland Telephone Cooperative, KGPCo, Loretto Telecom, North Central Telephone Cooperative, TDS Telecom, Twin Lakes and United Communications.