Tennessee: Wired not Fired

Tennessee wants high speed internet, according to a panel of experts and legislators who found that the state was lagging behind in internet access and that increased high speed broadband was necessary for the economy, government and education.

The Tennessee Broadband Task Force spent a year looking at the status of the internet in Tennessee and concluded that rural Tennesseans often don't have access to education, employment and health care services that are available only with high speed internet connections. Only one in four households have broadband, making the state 37th in the nation for broadband availability.

''This world is being divided between the wired and the fired,'' Herron said. ''There will be those with high-speed broadband lines and those who are in unemployment lines. I'm really, really scared if we don't act,'' said Sen. Roy Herron, the panel co-chairman.  He sees the internet superhighway as having the same importance today as interstate highways did in the 1950s. 

The panel urged Tennessee to follow the highly successful model of ConnectKentucky that features public-private partnerships which have increased internet access and speed throughout Kentucky.  Underserved areas need to be identified then efforts can be made to expand high speed internet.  They also said the state should work to increase competition.  The panel recommended that the target speeds be much higher than the FCC definition of high speed, 200 mbps.

"Affordable broadband Internet access is crucial to the success of Tennessee's economic future, the health of its citizens and the education of its children. Broadband should be available to every household and business in the state," wrote Pat Miller, Reach Tennessee Regulatory Authority Director, in the Tennessean.

Tennessee appears to be on the right path to overcoming the digital divide.  The next step is a national policy that follows suit and addresses America's needs of having a truly high speed and universal internet.

Associated Press: Panel Urges Expanded High-Speed Access

Speed Matters Blog: High Speed in the Blue Grass

Tennessean: State Underserved in High-Speed Internet