Town Hall Meetings On Need For Broadband In Jefferson County

My Fellow Citizens,

As citizens, business owners, teachers, and educators, we all understand the importance of internet access. Our students need affordable internet service at home so they can make progress with their education and be competitive with their fellow students across the state. Our businesses need dependable internet services to expand and grow jobs. Families need internet service to participate in routine activities that are internet-dependent. Unfortunately, a set of statutes in Tennessee over-regulate internet distribution. As a result, limits are placed on our access to adequate internet service. In fact over 34% of rural Tennesseans are without access, or have access to inadequate and overpriced service. In Jefferson County, that is over 2000 students. In more remote counties the statistics are much worse according to the Tennessee Council on Intergovernmental Relations and the Federal Communications Commission.

The problem of rural broadband internet access in Tennessee is created by a complex web of statutes that have been codified over the past few decades that limit competition between the so-called “legacy carriers” and the 7 municipal utilities that provide gigabit lightening speed internet service. Some would say that such laws are outright protectionist in nature because they limit said utilities to their historic service areas and do not adhere to a free-market approach in their application to the telecommunications industry. If internet-capable utilities were permitted to provide service by agreement outside their service areas, the world of broadband internet distribution would improve dramatically in Tennessee. Utilities in general have the established easements and existing infrastructure to bring broadband to the masses in the state of Tennessee. However, the previously mentioned statutory limits are holding our state decades behind other areas of the country. I intend to make a deliberate effort to change this set of conditions.

Linked below are three articles and one video that I offer to support my argument. The video of Tennessee State Senator Janice Bowling explains Senate Bill 1045 on telecommunications. This bill, co-sponsored by Representative Terri Weaver in the Tennessee House of Representatives will accomplish the regulatory changes that I believe are needed to open the broadband market in Tennessee. To promote the legislative changes described in this email, I have introduced County Resolution 2017-44 in County Commission. This proposed resolution calls for specific regulatory changes, including adoption of the FCC definition of broadband, and passage of the Bowling/Weaver Telecommunications Bill.

To accomplish this goal, I am holding a series of Town Hall Meetings in Jefferson County, the first of which is scheduled at Parrot-Wood Library on Tuesday September 19 at 6:30 PM. In the town hall meetings, I hope to explain the current state of broadband and it’s regulatory limits, outline needed changes in state code, and provide a Citizen Action Guide to facilitate those changes.

David Seal
Jefferson County Commission, District 9

Jefferson Farmers Co-op 08112014