UPPER CUMBERLAND – Officials in Tennessee want to make sure every community has access to broadband, and a statewide study aimed at measuring access and usage is nearing completion. Businesses leaders and residents have until Tuesday, March, 15 to take an online assessment at www.tn.gov/broadband.
The statewide assessment was initiated based on feedback Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd received from leadership in all nine TNECD regions who collectively expressed the lack of high-speed Internet may hurt future economic development efforts in rural Tennessee.
“Tennessee’s economic future is directly tied to our broadband access,” Boyd said. “Broadband access impacts our quality of life, educational opportunities, health care and our businesses’ ability to compete. We must measure who has broadband Internet access and how they are using it.”
Data collected from the survey will allow TNECD to ID access gaps and evaluate options and costs to build out unserved and underserved areas of the state. Upper Cumberland residents are especially encouraged to participate in the survey to ensure the region’s needs are adequately represented.
“From expanding local industries’ consumer markets through e-commerce to eliminating distance barriers and improving access to medical services with the use of telemedicine, broadband affects the livelihood and well-being of thousands of Upper Cumberland citizens,” Megan Farris, assistant director of economic and community development at the Upper Cumberland Development District (UCDD), said.
“A strong regional representation in this survey is critical,” Farris added. “On the national playing field, our 14-county region cannot afford to be lacking in broadband coverage. Speaking with local government and community leaders throughout our region, we know the need of high-speed Internet connectivity is very present, and this survey gives each resident the opportunity to voice that need.”
Estimates show at least 422,000 households across Tennessee don’t have access to landline Internet speeds that meet the FCC benchmark of high-speed broadband (25 mbps download/3 mbps upload). Another 1.6 million Tennessee households are served by only one provider.
The department will deliver a full report and policy recommendations derived from the assessment to Gov. Bill Haslam in June.