State report says electric co-ops could help to improve broadband access in Tennessee

State report says electric co-ops could help to improve broadband access in Tennessee

A report detailing the availability of broadband access in rural Tennessee says electric cooperatives are “well positioned to offer [this] service” and suggests the state should consider lifting restrictions that keep co-ops from providing fiber-optic infrastructure to their members.

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development released the results of a comprehensive study on broadband access in Tennessee on July 19. Duck River Electric Membership Corporation (DREMC) is encouraged by the report’s findings and recommendations.

The study, which examines broadband use and availability, finds that regulatory barriers in the state restrict investment and reduce competition. The report specifically mentions a state law that prevents electric cooperatives from providing retail broadband.

“The study identifies rural and economically distressed regions of the state as areas of greatest need. These are the same communities served by co-ops like Duck River,” says DREMC President and CEO Michael Watson.

“Despite our unique position, Tennessee state law prevents co-ops from providing broadband access to those we serve. We are confident that the General Assembly will act on the recommendations of this study, creating an environment that encourages investment, competition and, ultimately, greater access to broadband.”

Much of the report is based on responses from a statewide broadband survey, in which 23,000 households and businesses participated.

The full report can be viewed here:

http://www.tn.gov/assets/entities/ecd/attachments/broadband-study.pdf