The House of Representatives passed the Governor's Tennessee Broadband and Accessibility Act in a 93-4 vote, sending it to Governor Haslam's desk for signature.
The bill aims to increase broadband access to Tennessee’s unserved citizens. Tennessee currently ranks 29th in the U.S. for broadband access, with 34 percent of rural Tennessee residents lacking access at recognized minimum standards.
The Senate passed the legislation 31-0 on April 3, and it was passed in the House the following Monday.
“More than 800,000 Tennesseans don’t have access to broadband, and one in three businesses identified it as essential to selecting their location. Spurring deployment in our rural, unserved areas will open them up to economic investment and growth,” Haslam said. “I want to thank the General Assembly for its overwhelming support, particularly Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) and Rep. David Hawk (R-Greeneville) for carrying this legislation, which provides a reasonable, responsible path to improve broadband access through investment, deregulation and education.”
The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act provides $45 million over three years in grants and tax credits for service providers to assist in making broadband available to unserved homes and businesses.
In addition, the plan will permit Tennessee’s private, nonprofit electric cooperatives to provide retail broadband service and make grant funding available to the state’s local libraries to help residents improve their digital literacy skills and maximize the benefits of broadband.