Rep. Mark White discusses role of broadband in pandemic recovery

Posted: August 7, 2020

Chairman of House Education Committee featured on “Lead Tennessee Radio”

Tennessee State Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis, who chairs the important House Education Committee, was a recent guest on the “Lead Tennessee Radio” podcast, which is produced by the Tennessee Broadband Association.

In this episode, Rep. White, who has served District 83 since 2010, compared the need for broadband access in unserved areas of Tennessee to the need for electricity before the Tennessee Valley Authority Act was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1933.

White said the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the necessity of broadband access for rural areas and the need for more affordable access in urban settings as school children were forced into virtual classrooms when schools closed down.

“This virus has shown us that broadband connectivity is as important as running water and electricity,” White said. “If you go back in Tennessee’s history or in the southeast, when (President) Franklin Roosevelt established the TVA, only a very few had electricity … in our state. They established the TVA, which then gave electricity to about 90% of the people of Tennessee and the southeast. We need to have that kind of a federal and state movement today so that we expand broadband much as they did with electricity in the 1930s.”

As educators try to adjust to many challenges in the face of COVID-19, they must also find ways to keep their students connected going forward.

White said he is proud of the state for not cutting education budgets when leaders had to make tough decisions during their last budget cycle. But COVID-19 has created new challenges for school systems that were not anticipated pre-pandemic, and Tennesseans have to find a way to meet those challenges.

“My biggest fear and my biggest concern is those students who need the help the best would be the ones that will fall behind academically because they will not be coming from homes where the latest technology is available,” White said.

School districts have made strides by providing laptops or tablets and by providing Wi-Fi hotspots for their students to access high-speed internet, but White said there is more to be done to ensure everyone in need of broadband access for education, health and economic development will have it.

“Rural health care is also an issue,” he said. “You can’t depend on telehealth if you don’t have broadband connectivity for those communities. So, whether it’s education or health care, broadband expansion and Wi-Fi connectivity are just critical in these communities.”

The “Lead Tennessee Radio” podcast is an opportunity to discuss issues facing Tennessee with state leaders and lawmakers. Past episodes feature House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville; Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge; House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland; Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, R-Franklin; and many more.

“The cooperative and independent telecommunications companies who comprise the TNBA are working hard to ensure that everyone in rural Tennessee has access to this life-changing technology,” said Knowles. “This podcast is a great opportunity to have conversations with state and industry leaders who are on the front lines working for a connected Tennessee.”

“Lead Tennessee Radio” can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Play, as well as at

Listen on Apple PodcastsListen on SpotifyListen on Google Podcasts