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Economic development; Lee says rural broadband is key for state

By Tamas Mondovics

Improving rural broadband connectivity took center stage when Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee spoke to members of the newly renamed Tennessee Broadband Association earlier this month in Franklin, TN.
Lee associated prosperity and leadership with the availability of broadband Internet speeds in rural communities stating, “all areas of the state need to prosper for Tennessee to be an economic leader, and is a key to helping rural Tennesseans thrive.”
With that, Lee pledged to help foster solutions for rural broadband expansion in the future. “What happens in rural Tennessee profoundly impacts every Tennessean,” he said.
To highlight the issue during the governor, shared his personal experience and told his audience that he could not get broadband internet speeds at his home while stressing that the lack of connectivity is crippling for someone running a business or pursuing a degree.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Lee said. “Every single person in Tennessee’s life can be improved by the things that we do together.”
Lee zeroed in on economic development, health care, and educational opportunities as areas where he felt reliable broadband would have the most significant impact on rural Tennesseans.
“We’re moving in the right direction and doing what needs to be done,” Lee said, adding, “Government can’t provide broadband services all over the state. But government has a really important role. We create an environment for collaborative partnerships that will help to solve the problems of our day.”
It is where looking to the Tennessee Broadband Association, formerly the Tennessee Telecommunications Association, for the solution becomes clear.
According to officials, the Tennessee Broadband Association is comprised of independent and cooperatively owned companies that reportedly connect nearly 30 percent of the state with broadband and related services.
Together these companies are said to have invested more than $240 million in recent years to connect rural Tennesseans with fiber networks.
As to how and when all of this will takes shape remains to be seen, but Levoy Knowles, executive director of the Tennessee Broadband Association, has full confidence in Lee’s promise of support when he said “Gov. Lee has established himself as a champion for rural Tennesseans. We were honored to have him speak and believe that his time with us highlights his commitment to rural broadband expansion.”