Monday, March 13, 2017

Amended Tennessee bill moves rural underserved areas one step closer to having broadband

An amended version of Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam's Broadband Accessibility Act would allow the state's rural electric cooperatives "to offer video to customers as well as broadband services," Andy Sher reports for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Assistant Majority Leader David Hawk (R-Greeneville), who is carrying the governor's bill, said "while the bill's goal is make broadband internet accessible in the state's underserved areas, 'we also want broadband to be adopted.'"

Hawk said "allowing the nonprofit electric co-ops to have cable-like television offerings is a way of doing that in rural Tennessee where 34 percent of residents don't have broadband access," Sher writes. "The offering of video also is widely viewed as a means of offering high-speed broadband for businesses, health care offices and facilities and residential users financially viable. The legislation prohibits the electric co-ops from cross-subsidizing their broadband operations from power revenues and would be required to create stand-alone broadband operations. Moreover, the state's 23 co-ops would only be able to offer video within their current service areas under the legislation."

David Callis, executive vice president and general manager for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, said in a statement the bill is "an important step to expand access to high-speed internet in rural Tennessee. This legislation will not only help areas with the greatest need for high-speed internet, but it will also create jobs and improve access to education and healthcare."

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