Coping With Crisis
Telecommunications providers remain resilient
As we move into summer, COVID-19 continues to impact our industry. It has altered all our lives, at least temporarily, and it has forced us to make changes to how we conduct business. Almost all of our members have been forced to adjust their policies to protect employees and customers.
While the global pandemic has highlighted the need for fast, reliable broadband, it has also underscored the technology gaps that remain in rural Tennessee.
In addition to limiting social contact and wearing masks, many Tennessee Broadband Association members are working within their communities to ensure access to broadband is available. Through public terminals in local libraries or free public Wi-Fi hot spots, our members are making sure students have the tools necessary to complete their schoolwork and those forced to work from home can continue supporting their family.
Many of our members have appeared on our podcast, “Lead Tennessee Radio,” to talk about the way they continue serving their members. You can access the podcasts on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Play and at tennesseebroadband.com to learn how others are serving their communities during the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic all but shut down the economy. Businesses are starting to reopen, but tax revenues have already been drastically impaired. This has caused Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee to submit revised budget numbers for the remainder of the current fiscal year as well as for fiscal year 2020-2021.
Unfortunately, the governor has proposed reducing the Broadband Accessibility Fund from $25 million to $15 million for the 2020-21 budget. We are attempting to contact legislators to determine if this is the final draft or if there is still some movement. If there is movement, we will try to get some of it restored, but it will definitely be an uphill battle.
However, Gov. Lee, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, House Speaker Cameron Sexton and the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group announced a new relief program for Tennessee businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tennessee Business Relief Program will direct about $200 million in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds through the Department of Revenue directly to small businesses that qualify.
Funds awarded through the program will be based on the annual gross sales of the business. More details are available on the Department of Revenue’s website.
One thing we have learned in this industry is resiliency. Regardless of global pandemics or economic recessions, we will continue serving rural Tennessee with fast, reliable broadband.