Republican State Senator Janice Bowling from Tennessee is once again speaking out in favor of local telecommunications authority. On Monday, she published an op-ed in the Tennessean titled "Don't limit high-speed broadband to big cities," noting that rural communities often have no choice but to build their own infrastructure to obtain fast, reliable, affordable Internet access for residents and businesses.
Bowling refers to Tullahoma, her own home town, where economic growth is strong and Internet access is affordable. Tullahoma has a history of increasing speeds without increasing rates and now offers gigabit service for around $100. Unfortunately, Tullahoma is surrounded by communities it cannot help due to the state limitations.
Tennessee's restrictive laws prevent other communities from following in Tullahoma's footsteps. She sees the way these laws hold back people in her home state:
Unfortunately, public broadband networks are impeded by restrictive state laws that limit the power municipals have in providing services. In Tennessee, a 1999 law prohibits municipalities that operate broadband networks from providing service to anyone outside of the boundaries of their electrical footprint. This means that people in rural towns and small communities are still without high-speed Internet.
They’re without educational and employment opportunities, improved modern health care, enhanced public safety or better-quality government services, among other benefits.
As a senator representing seven rural counties and a resident of a small community myself, I am speaking out for all of those who are being held hostage to 20th-century technology. Let us grow our economies, improve our governments’ performance and create jobs for in our communities. Let us have Internet choice(s).
In November, Senator Bowling spoke at the Next Century Cities event "Envisioning a Gigabit Future." Below is her presentation on the need for high-speed connectivity and local authority in rural communities.
Photo available as a creative commons work from Senator Bowling's Campaign website.