Tennessee Staying Neutral on Provider and Technology for Broadband Plans

The state broadband director said its position on neutrality has led to diverse solutions that caters to community needs.

Tennessee Staying Neutral on Provider and Technology for Broadband Plans
Photo of Gary Bolton, used with permission.

WASHINGTON, March 10, 2022 — Staying neutral when it comes to choosing providers and technology types is favorable for state broadband projects, said Tennessee’s state broadband director.

“Our state has maintained both provider and technology type neutrality…we’ve had a wide variety of partners…and technologies,” Taylre Beaty said Wednesday during a Fiber for Breakfast event hosted by the Fiber Broadband Association.

Beaty added that this has, in part, contributed to the success of the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Program, saying that it has “really allowed providers to work on solutions that work for the community depending on [the] types of needs.”

The reflection on neutrality comes at a time when experts are debating the best ways to build out broadband infrastructure using billions from the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act.

While the Fiber Broadband Association and the NTCA Rural Broadband Association have pressed for a focus on fiber for IIJA money, others are recommending a broader approach that includes wireless technologies.

In submissions to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which is tasked with disbursing $42.5 billion from the IIJA, large telecoms Verizon, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular have urged the agency to focus on ensuring neutrality of broadband technology to reach more territory and more Americans.

Tennessee broadband programs funding began modestly

The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Program, which passed the state legislator in April of 2017, got its first round of state funding worth $10 million in 2018. “At the time,” said Beaty, “it felt like a ton of money.”

Now, it has over $400 million to play with, thanks to a grant funding provided by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

“If you can provide [broadband service] here in Tennessee…you’re eligible to apply for [state] funds,” said Beaty. “[The program] jumpstarted a lot of the work in the broadband space,” Beaty said.

There used to be a maximum request amount of $2 million, Beaty said, but state officials decided to remove that maximum request due to the increased interest and funding.

Popular Tags