Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Tenn. bill for rural broadband clears state Senate with change to let co-ops offer video service

A Tennessee bill to expand broadband internet to rural areas passed its first hurdle Monday. Requested in January by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, the proposed Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act would start a grant program to provide $45 million over three years for incentives to expand broadband to under-served areas, Jake Lowary reports for The Tennessean.

Before sending the bill to the House, the Senate amended to allowing rural electric cooperatives to offer video service as part of the broadband service but lowering the minimum speed to 10 megabytes per second from 25 mpbs, a federal standard for broadband.

"Current providers of broadband service in rural areas testified in committee hearings that the bill was unnecessary and would create unfair competition for providers that had already offered the service for several years," Lowary reports. But officials said the state ranks 29th in broadband access, with about 34 percent of the population—about 725,000 people, most of them rural—lacking access.

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