In January 2017, Gov. Haslam announced the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act (“TBAA”). This bill was enacted by the legislature with overwhelming support and signed into law by Gov. Haslam in spring of 2017. This bill launches the State of Tennessee’s broadband efforts to promote access and adoption across all areas of the state.
The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act was the result of careful study and planning with input from stakeholders by both the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development and the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.
This initiative is designed to help address broadband access and adoption gaps across the state. To view broadband coverage in your area, visit the FCC’s website.
There are three main components to the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act:
Investment – Coupled with Gov. Haslam’s proposed budget, TBAA provides $45 million over three years through grants and tax credits that focus on the state’s unserved areas.
- Establishes the “Broadband Accessibility Grant Program,” providing $30 million over a three-year period ($10 million per year) to broadband providers to encourage deployment to unserved homes and businesses.
- Provides a tax credit to private service providers totaling $15 million over three years ($5 million per year) based on the purchase of broadband equipment used to provide broadband access in Tennessee’s most economically challenged counties.
Deregulation – TBAA permits the state’s private, nonprofit electric cooperatives to provide broadband service.
- Electric cooperatives, previously restricted from providing retail broadband services, are uniquely situated to assist in bridging the broadband accessibility gap with experience serving areas with lower population densities and providing universal service throughout their territories.
- TBAA also strengthens protections that prevent electric cooperatives from using electric system assets to subsidize broadband services and ensures that cooperative participation in the broadband market will not limit consumers’ choices.
Education – Because broadband accessibility without adoption accomplishes little, adoption efforts must be included in the State’s plans to maximize the economic impact and increase the return on investment of State funds.
- Through the Rural Task Force and other coordinated efforts, existing programs and resources will be evaluated and leveraged to drive broadband adoption.
- TBAA provides grant funding opportunities to the state’s local libraries to help residents improve their digital literacy skills and maximize the benefits of broadband.
Broadband Accessibility Grant Program - The grant program is currently in development. The application for the $10 million in FY18 funding will open in fall of 2017 with grantees announced in early 2018.
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