Increased Funding Propels Broadband Development In Rural Communities, With Rod Ballard

Posted: July 13, 2021

Live from the Tennessee Broadband Association (TNBA) conference, Rod Ballard, principal in Jackson Thornton’s Telecommunications Group and Healthcare Group, was Andy Johns’ guest for the most recent edition of “Lead Tennessee Radio” podcast, produced by the Tennessee Broadband Association.

In this episode, Rod talked about important funding issues for the broadband industry, highlighting how last year’s pandemic pushed broadband development into priority status for many rural communities across the nation. “If you have private industry valuing broadband and the federal government appropriating funds in a certain way, broadband is a really big deal,” says Rod.

Rod also talks about how Tennessee has been an example in terms of leading broadband development in rural areas and how other states like Alabama have been modeling Tennessee’s initiatives and deploying broadband funds in a logical and non-wasteful way. He also mentions that as the focus on the need for broadband access intensifies, it has really become “a hot topic” in government, resulting in larger investment initiatives and increasing the value of broadband companies like never before.

According to Rod, there is an increased optimism in the industry as the amount of government funding available has increased dramatically when compared to previous years. In addition, there is a lot of anticipation for funding at a federal level at some point in 2021 as the two parties try to reach an agreement for the infrastructure budget. The increased need for broadband combined with bigger and more numerous funding opportunities means there is no better time to enter the broadband industry than this year.

The broadband business is not easy and requires a lot of commitment — fiber deployment is costly and requires not only government funding, which is critical, but also private capital often obtained through loans and entrepreneurial funds. This business also has high ongoing costs, which means an ongoing need for funds and a positive response from state and federal governments. To close the episode, Rod talks about how the state of Tennessee has one of the best broadband networks anywhere in the world with some of the most experienced providers in the field working hard to achieve 100% fiber broadband deployment and that the future looks optimistic for rural broadband initiatives.

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 the Tennessee Broadband Association website.

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