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Connecting to the Future: More Broadband for Rural Tennessee

More rural Tennessee communities are in line for broadband Internet access, with FCC funding focused on improving service to less-populated areas. Credit: ariadnerb/morguefile
More rural Tennessee communities are in line for broadband Internet access, with FCC funding focused on improving service to less-populated areas. Credit: ariadnerb/morguefile
September 21, 2015

NASHVILLE - Eighty-one thousand homes and businesses in Tennessee are on the list to get a broadband Internet connection. It's part of the Federal Communications Commission's Connect America Fund that began three years ago.

The goal is to make sure higher-speed Internet connections are available to communities where the lack of population may not provide enough incentive to providers to install the technology, explains FCC spokesman Mark Wigfield.

"Rural areas tend to be more expensive to serve because there's fewer people, the terrain may be challenging," Wigfield says. "So, the costs tend to be high and because of that, service often is not deployed."

He says it could take six years for the expansion to be complete and it will be installed largely by AT&T.

Cities and counties across Tennessee have also expressed interest in offering fiberoptic Internet connections to their residents, but so far that expansion has been held up by groups lobbying on behalf of the large communications providers.

In times where homes rely on a high-speed Internet connection for higher education, employment and entertainment, Wigfield says greater availability of broadband will help move communities forward.

"For any kind of business that's operating there, that gives them more access to other marketplaces and other sources of business, to suppliers," he says. "It's important for the local economy, as well."

In Tennessee, the Connect America Fund is providing $26 million to companies, which then have to meet installation deadlines in order to access the money.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN