As I traveled across Tennessee in my first few months as TNECD commissioner last year and held town hall “listening” sessions, over half of each conversation focused on increasing broadband access.
After subsequent conversations with businesses, telecommunications industry stakeholders and legislators, we found there was general disagreement about Tennessee’s broadband access and utilization needs.
We commissioned this report from leading consultants in the field to help answer four basic questions:
- What is the technical definition of broadband?
- How many Tennesseans do not have access to broadband?
- What is the cost of bringing broadband to Tennesseans that do not have it?
- What are best practices and lessons learned for promulgating broadband from around the country?
The consultants’ study also included a robust, live assessment of Tennessee’s broadband access. More than 23,000 Tennessee households and businesses participated in the assessment.
Businesses participating in the assessment said broadband enabled 43 percent of all net new jobs and 66 percent of revenues. In addition, 34 percent of businesses classified broadband as essential to selecting their location, and 56 percent noted that it was essential to remain in their location. Sixteen percent of economic development agencies reported that businesses frequently chose not to locate in an area due to insufficient broadband.
It is clear that broadband is critical to the economic future of Tennessee. Broadband already significantly contributes to Tennessee’s economy. When a community lacks adequate access, economic opportunities are lost.
Attached are an executive summary and three reports provided by our consultants:
- Internet Connectivity and Utilization – Benchmarks current access and utilization.
- eStrategy– Outlines recommendations and options for increasing access and utilization.
- Considerations and Best Practices for Statewide Broadband Initiatives – Details best practices and lessons learned from other states’ broadband initiatives.
This report is a starting point for meaningful conversations about broadband in our state. An internal working group will review the report and have discussions with stakeholders to develop potential solutions to close the gap on broadband access in Tennessee.
Not every option included in the report may be the answer for Tennessee, nor is there one simple solution. With the menu of options provided in the study, decision makers can begin a dialogue to find a win-win combination to ensure our communities have the broadband they need.