Tennesseans could see gap close in internet divide

Posted at 10:10 PM, May 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-09 23:23:08-04

MANCHESTER, Tenn. (WTVF) — Having high-speed internet in our home is something so many of us can take for granted. But the reality is, thousands of people in Middle Tennessee's most rural counties don't have high-speed internet access.

But a new Biden Adminstration program hopes to further close the digital divide.

Of all the resources available at the Coffee County Manchester Public Library, Director Polly Vaughn says perhaps the most in demand item doesn't sit on a bookshelf: it's a mobile hotspot providing internet access to patrons without it at home.

"If I could get a thousand hotspots, that probably wouldn't be enough," Vaughn said.

In rural places like Coffee County, broadband internet use lags behind most of the country.

"It's one of the most pressing issues in any county, but especially rural areas, because it takes a lot to get that service out there," Vaughn said.

But the Biden Administration announced Monday, as part of the federal infrastructure bill, qualifying lower income Americans will now be able to get internet for free, pairing a $30 internet discount with a $30 internet plan promised by several different internet providers.

A plan Vaughn says could make a real difference, especially for households with students.