In his State of the State address Monday night, Gov. Bill Lee underscored the importance of rural broadband in modernizing Tennessee’s health care system and announced $20 million in state investment to expand broadband networks to rural Tennesseans.
“Despite the closure of rural hospitals across the state and country, there are many opportunities to transform care in these communities through smart reforms, increased innovation, and a new business model,” Lee said.
Lee then announced his proposal for $20 million “to boost broadband accessibility which will make technology like telemedicine more accessible and practical.”
Levoy Knowles, executive director of the Tennessee Telecommunications Association was present in the chamber for the address. As of Monday night, the administration had not released any additional details about the funding.
“The governor stressed the crucial role broadband connections will play in the future of health care in our state,” Knowles said. “In fact, a broadband connection for all Tennesseans is critical for most of the themes in the governor’s address — whether it’s health care, education or economic development. Members of the Tennessee Telecommunications Association know the challenges of building rural networks and are leading the charge to expand broadband so no one gets left behind just because they choose to live or work in a rural area.”
Lee announced the creation of the Healthcare Modernization Task Force which he said will “work closely with private sector stakeholders, policymakers, and communities across the state to develop a list of reforms and critical investments.”
Lee named finance commissioner Stuart McWhorter as chairman of the task force.
The governor’s Twitter account published a series of images highlighting his talking points from the address. One image explained that the task force will “develop actionable reforms to ensure that Tennesseans have greater access to quality healthcare that meets their current and future needs.”
Knowles said he was encouraged by the governor’s announcement and eager to see the details. “We are glad to see Gov. Lee expand Gov. Haslam’s view of the state’s investment in rural networks,” Knowles said. “As with phone and electric service in decades past, the monumental challenge of connecting rural areas in our state with broadband can only be overcome through partnerships with the state, private businesses and cooperative providers.
Tennessee created a model for other states to follow in broadband expansion and Gov. Lee is keeping the foot on the throttle as we work to build access for all Tennesseans.”