Government Affairs Spotlight: Learn the latest on what’s happening in Nashville

Posted: April 5, 2023

TNBA Government Affairs Director Levoy Knowles

While the legislative session is nearly over, that doesn’t mean the work of the TNBA Government Affairs team will stop. The team often spends several days each week at the Tennessee State Capitol to advocate for better broadband and that hard work will pay off again this year.

“Right now, all indications are that the session will be over mid-to-late April,” says TNBA Government Affairs Director Levoy Knowles. “At this time, there aren’t any bills being passed through the committee process that will adversely affect our members.”

Among the thousands of bills filed during the 113th General Assembly, there are several being closely monitored by TNBA to ensure changes are minimal for members, including bills on data privacy, service area expansion, and how the federal money for the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program, also known as BEAD, will be distributed.

The data privacy bill has seen many iterations during past legislative sessions. It’s now evolved to the point where it will affect any company with $25 million a year in revenue, more than 175,000 customers and that collects at least 50% of its gross revenue from the sale of personal information.

“Where the bill is at now will likely impact some of the larger telecom companies, but not TNBA members,” says Knowles.

Additionally, there are five expansion bills opposed by TNBA that would allow electric cooperatives or municipals to go outside their service footprint.

“The BEAD bill is sponsored by Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton,” says Knowles. “He’s asking for a little more oversight to make sure the money is spent wisely and solves the broadband access problem in Tennessee.”

This spring, TNBA Executive Director Carrie Huckeby and Trevor Bonnstetter, Government Affairs will attend the Legislative Policy Conference. The conference, hosted by NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, helps to connect providers with federal lawmakers and create support for rural broadband network deployment nationwide.