Report: State broadband access lacking

By BRIAN GRAVES Banner Staff Writer
Posted 9/3/16

A recent report received by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations shows the state is greatly underserved by broadband access.

Much of the information was sourced from a …

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Report: State broadband access lacking

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A recent report received by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations shows the state is greatly underserved by broadband access.

Much of the information was sourced from a recent statewide broadband survey by the Department of Economic and Community Development.

“It is clear that broadband is critical to the economic future of Tennessee,” said TNECD Commissioner Randy Boyd. “When a community lacks adequate access, economic opportunities are lost.”

The report recommends Tennessee adopt the Federal Communication Commission’s definition of broadband as 25 Mbps download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed.

“The most frequently cited barrier to increased household utilization of the Internet is the speed and reliability of the service,” the study said. “Sixty-eight percent of respondents cited this as a very important barrier, while 20 percent said it was somewhat important.”

It also said businesses need “at leat 3 Mbps upload speed to be actively engaged.”

TNECD said the state’s economic future is tied to broadband access.

It provided figures showing 66 percent of revenues were enabled by the Internet; 43 percent of net new jobs were enabled by the Internet; 34 percent of those businesses surveyed said broadband was essential to their location and 54 percent said broadband was essential to remaining in their location.

 The study said 54 percent of all Tennessee residents are currently connected by DSL, mobile wireless, satellite and dial-up and 34 percent of rural residents lack any access.

Tennessee received a ranking of 39 in a national survey of broadband access and is one of 25 states which has no state Internet office.

Other rankings of nearby states included: 10th, Kentucky; 14th, North Carolina; and 15th, Mississippi.

The debate is now continuing over whether Tennessee should change its laws allowing municipalities, such as Chattanooga’s EPB, to extend its broadband service footprint into adjacent areas.

Communication conglomerates such as AT&T and Verizon have been vigorous in their fight against such measures saying any competition between government and private companies would not be fair.

There are those who argue that point, particularly noting AT&T has received hundred of millions of dollars in federal subsidies that are supposed to aid in providing broadband access to rural areas.

AT&T announced Aug. 25 it would be introducing its fiber network to “areas of Bradley County.”

State Reps. Kevin Brooks and Dan Howell, who have spearheaded efforts in Nashville to change the laws, questioned why the announcement said “areas” of the county.

“What areas exactly? Why not all areas of Bradley County?” Brooks asked in a statement to the Cleveland Daily Banner in response to the announcement.

“We decided that regulation can and does stop broadband progress and that needs to be recognized,” said a summary by the Strategic Networks Group provided to the state.

The organization also stated that having equal access to advanced broadband networks “bridges the digital divide and creates better equality between the haves and the have-nots.”

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