RS 1: Tennessee

Congress prepares to knock down barriers to broadband expansion in rural America

The Tennessean, Tennessee’s local newspaper, published an article by Michael Collins on January 11, 2018 that addresses the digital divide in Nashville as well as nationally. Collins discusses many of Tennessee’s leaders’ points of views and future plans. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee’s senator, says that she “expects to introduce several pieces of legislation in the next three months to remove the barriers to broadband expansion into rural areas” (2). More specifically, “[w]e are going to put this emphasis on getting broadband into these unserved rural areas because you’re not going to have economic development or 21st-century health care of expanded education opportunities or workforce and jobs retraining without it” (3). Blackburn acknowledges that a lack of internet results in far more consequences than not being able to go online. Last year, Tennessee governor Bill Haslam “signed into law a bill that will provide $45 million over three years in grants and tax credits for service providers to assist in making broadband available to ‘unserved’ homes and businesses throughout the state” (7). The article then goes on to state facts about broadband services, such as the fact that 39% of rural Americans do not have it. In contrast, 4% of urban Americans experience this same issue. Another benefit of broadband that is given in this article is the possibility for telemedicine, “so that rural patients can confer online with medical specialists in urban areas and quickly share test results and other information,” (10) which would be a huge benefit for those who do not have a nearby doctor. Donald Trump visited Nashville recently and signed “two executive orders declaring that the executive branch will ‘use all viable tools’ to accelerate the deployment and adoption of affordable and reliable broadband in rural America” (12). Collins then explains the obstacles that broadband expansion would have to tackle, namely the fact that they would not profit at all from the expansion. Millions of dollars are needed to “bring broadband to unserved and underserved parts of the country,” (19) and the lack of profit stands in the way of this occurring in a timely manner. It is vital for all areas to have access to broadband because it is “essential for economic development and giving consumers in remote areas access to educational opportunities such as online college courses” (10). The benefits that those with broadband receive put them in a far more advanced state than those without it, causing inequalities that are unfixable without the expansion of broadband.

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