Study to facilitate internet access initiated by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) will hear from a panel of broadband providers, users and others regarding broadband development and deployment in Tennessee as part of a study now underway. The study was initiated by TACIR Chairman and Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville).

The meeting will take place on October 21 at 1:00 pm CST in Room 30 of the Legislative Plaza.

“This is an important undertaking,” said Leader Norris. “Internet access, and the broadband we need to provide it, is critical to commerce and quality of life, especially in our rural communities. In addition to the general public’s need for reliable access, broadband is essential to the state’s education and economic development efforts. We hope this study will help to provide a clear path forward to increase reliable access statewide.”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines broadband as “high-speed Internet access that is always on and faster than the traditional dial-up access.” High-speed transmission technologies associated with broadband include digital subscriber line (DSL), cable modem, fiber, wireless, satellite, and broadband over power lines (BPL). Norris said the study includes the extent and quality of coverage, factors that affect the cost of deploying broadband, tax policy, and barriers to expansion by public and private providers, including pole attachment rates and governmental requirements by public and private providers. It will also encompass best practices by other states to provide broadband services.

Two panels, one representing the interests of broadband providers and the other representing the interests of users and the broader community will present information to members of TACIR. Those speaking on behalf of broadband providers are Levoy Knowles, Executive Director of the Tennessee Telecommunications Association; Joelle Phillips, President of AT&T, Tennessee; Ken Webb, President and CEO of Cleveland Utilities; Ben Lovins, Senior Vice President, Telecommunications Division of the Jackson Energy Authority; as well as representatives from the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association.

Speaking on behalf of the communities and broadband users are Amy New, Assistant Commissioner of Rural Development for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development; Sgt. Ehrin Ehlert with the Tennessee Highway Patrol; and Marshall Ramsey, President of the Morristown Chamber of Commerce; as well as representatives from the Tennessee Department of Education, Tennessee Board of Regents and the Tennessee Farm Bureau.

Industry and government reports rank Tennessee near the middle of the 50 states in broadband availability.

“Internet access is no longer a luxury,” added Norris. “In addition to being fundamental to the economic growth of our state, broadband access is important in providing more educational opportunities, better job training and advanced telemedicine. I look forward to a healthy exchange of ideas.”

The TACIR report is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.


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