Broadband Accessibility Act Gains Momentum
Earlier this week, House Republicans advanced House Bill 529 through the Business and Utilities Subcommittee, with the legislation gaining much-needed momentum as it continues its path to the full House floor for a final vote.
House Bill 529, the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act, was created after the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) produced a report earlier this year that outlined several municipal broadband failures and made recommendations about how more Tennesseans can adopt broadband services. Of particular interest, the report noted, is finding ways to provide broadband access to Tennessee’s rural areas.
Tennessee currently ranks 29th in the country for broadband access, with 13 percent of the state lacking accessibility. While only 2 percent of the state’s urban citizens lack access, 34 percent of rural residents are without coverage, placing them at a distinct disadvantage over their city counterparts.
House Bill 529 addresses broadband accessibility and adoption through business investment and deregulation. Coupled with the state budget, the legislation makes targeted state investments through grants and tax credits that focus on the state’s unserved areas. The legislation also permits the state’s private, nonprofit electric cooperatives to provide retail broadband service — something they have been completely unable to do in the past.
In addition, the legislation encourages training and assistance, as well as grant funding for education opportunities at the state’s local libraries to help residents improve digital literacy skills, which will maximize the benefits of broadband.
House Bill 529 will be heard in the full Business and Utilities Committee next week.