New broadband policy brief on Tennessee's challenges

This week, ThinkTennessee in partnership with the Center for Rural Strategies released a new policy brief that addresses Tennessee’s challenges in increasing broadband internet access and affordability, particularly for rural and low-income families.

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According to the researchers, roughly a quarter of Tennessee’s rural families are without any kind of broadband access, while 23% of the total population reports that they lack a high-speed internet subscription.

“From the roads we drive on to the water we drink, public infrastructure powers our communities – and internet access is a key piece of that infrastructure,” said Shanna Singh Hughey, ThinkTennessee president. “Much like safe roads and clean water, all Tennesseans deserve access to the vast wealth of the internet.”

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The report advocates for flexible solutions that can empower local communities to improve broadband access and affordability while meeting their unique needs and context. Some options, such as digital literacy programs, help address low subscription rates, while others, like a coordinated road repair and broadband installation policy known as “dig once,” help reduce costs and create additional access for underserved areas.

“The diversity of our great nation doesn’t stop at its big cities – it lives in the rural areas and small towns, too. And while that diversity enriches our communities, it also makes solving challenges like broadband complex,” said Whitney Kimball Coe, Director of National Programs with the Center for Rural Strategies. “There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to internet access and affordability, but if we create more pathways for providers, invest in local programs and emphasize efficient infrastructure deployment, we can improve the lives of thousands of Tennesseans.”

The full brief is available here.


Don't break the Internet before rural gets it

This is a post from Whitney Kimball Coe,  coordinator of the National Rural Assembly and director of national programs for the Center for Rural Strategies. Rural Strategies also publishes the Daily Yonder.


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One of my all-time, favorite quotes originated in the Daily Yonder back in 2014. My then-coworker, Edyael Casaperalta, submitted an exquisite and courageous Speak Your Piece, making the case to the Federal Communications Commission in support of net neutrality and rural broadband connectivity. It was called, "Life in the Slow Lane," and the best quote of all time became a rallying cry for the National Rural Assembly's Broadband Policy Group:

"Don't break the Internet before rural gets it."

I don't know if this editorial sealed the deal for the FCC back in 2014, but by 2015, they'd reclassified broadband as a Title II public utility, like telephone and electric service, and the 23 million people without internet access were just a little bit closer to enfranchisement.

Fast-forward to November 2017, and we're back at square one with the FCC. In the next few weeks, Chairman Ajit Pai is expected to outline what the repeal of the 2015 Title II reclassification will look like.

The Daily Yonder will no doubt offer the kind of analyses and critiques rural advocates will need to stay on top of this issue. More importantly, though, I know we can count on the Yonder to bring voices like Edyael's back to the party.

It's voices like hers, from small rural towns, reservations, parishes, and hollers across the country that give us clarity and courage as we work toward closing divides and achieving equity for marginalized communities.  

For the past 10 years, the National Rural Assembly has relied upon the Daily Yonder for content, data, and genuine rural voices to help us make sense of who we are and what matters most for rural futures. I hope you'll join me in supporting the Daily Yonder this year, so the information continues to flow to the people who need it most.