Tennessee’s Broadband Mapping Project, With Chip Spann

Posted: August 17, 2021

The latest episode of the Lead Tennessee Radio podcast features an interview with Chip Spann, Vice President of Engineering & Technical Services at Connected Nation, a national nonprofit organization with the mission of helping fill the digital divide. Chip explains that one of the main projects of the organization is to work with communities across the United States to put together granular maps that can pinpoint with greater accuracy the areas where broadband is available and — more importantly — where it is not available.

Part of the Connected Nation initiative included face-to-face meetings with local communities and leaders with the goal of educating about the benefits of broadband and getting a real picture of broadband availability in a particular area. The meetings also served as an opportunity to understand how people felt about broadband and what objections they had. Chip mentions that over the years, people began to understand more about how broadband became an important part of their lives by allowing them access to essential resources such as Telehealth and distance learning.

Chip goes on to explain that the Connected Nation Project seeks to give broadband providers a more accurate tool to make decisions regarding possible expansion areas by creating a granular map of areas covered by broadband service as well as underserved and unserved areas. The traditional method of submitting data to the Federal Government via form 477 relies on census block data that often overstates the availability of service in a certain area, meaning if one single house in a census block has a certain level of service, the government assumes that the entire census block has the same level of service. In remote areas of Tennessee where census blocks are sizable, this overestimation may mean 35 to 40 households can be left out of broadband funding programs because they are thought of as having service, when in fact they are unserved.

Chip says “the whole purpose is to make the map better so that companies out there can continue to expand broadband as they have done in the past years”. He also tells interviewer Levoy Knowles about ways providers can submit data to contribute to the new map and how they are trying to make it easy for providers to do so, regardless of whether they have digital files or old-school paper maps. He also reminds providers that the deadline for submitting data is September 30th, and gives important contact information for providers who need further assistance.

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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