Broadband study finds 13 percent without access in TN

Staff Reports • Updated Jul 21, 2016 at 2:00 PM

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development released Tuesday a study it commissioned to assess the current state of broadband access in Tennessee and options for increasing access and utilization.

Strategic Networks Group and NEO Connect, global leaders in broadband consulting, conducted the study on behalf of the department.

According to the study, 13 percent of Tennesseans, or 834,545 people, do not have access to broadband at the federal standard of 25 megabytes per second of download speed and 3 megabytes per second of upload speed.

More than 23,000 Tennessee residents and businesses responded to the survey portion of the study, which took place between January and March.

“The study identifies regions of the state with significant broadband needs. These are the same communities served by co-ops like Middle Tennessee Electric,” said Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corp. president and CEO Chris Jones in a statement Tuesday. “Despite our unique position, Tennessee state law prevents co-ops from providing broadband access to our members. We are confident that the legislature will act on the recommendations of this study, creating an environment that encourages investment, competition and, ultimately, greater access to broadband.

“MTEMC is committed to improving lives in the communities we serve. We are excited to work with the state to identify real solutions that will benefit our members.”

Businesses participating in the assessment reported broadband enabled 43 percent of all net new jobs and 66 percent of revenues. In addition, 34 percent of businesses classified broadband as essential to selecting their location, and 56 percent noted that it was essential to remain in their location. Sixteen percent of economic development agencies reported that businesses frequently chose not to locate in an area due to insufficient broadband.

“The department commissioned this report to establish benchmarks on broadband access in Tennessee,” said TNECD Commissioner Randy Boyd. “We need to evaluate these options and begin a meaningful dialogue.”

The study was broken into three parts:

• internet connectivity and utilization benchmarks current access and utilization.

• eStrategy outlines recommendations and options for increasing access and utilization.

• considerations and best practices for statewide broadband initiatives details best practices and lessons learned from other states’ broadband initiatives.

The report was delivered to Gov. Bill Haslam, the Tennessee General Assembly, TACIR, members of the telecommunications industry and other stakeholders.

“The information in this report is a starting point to advance the conversation about broadband access in our state,” Haslam said. “An internal working group will review the report and have discussions with stakeholders to develop potential solutions to close the gap on broadband access in Tennessee.”

“Not every option included in the report may be the answer for Tennessee, nor is there one simple solution,” Boyd said. “With the menu of options provided in the study, decision makers can begin a dialogue to find a win-win-win combination to ensure our communities have the broadband they need.”

The report is available to the public at tn.gov/assets/entities/ecd/attachments/broadband-study.pdf.

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