New legislation may increase broadband access in rural areas

HARDEMAN COUNTY, Tenn. — As part of Gov. Bill Haslam’s “NextTennessee” plan aimed at increasing economic growth, residents in rural areas may see a change in their broadband services.

If you live in a rural, area you may be experiencing problems with your broadband access.

“A company may have to run 10 miles of line to serve two or three customers, so it’s not profitable,” Hardeman County Mayor Jimmy Sain said. “So that’s what happens in the rural areas because we’re so spread out.”

Haslam introduced new legislation focusing on ways to create more reliable cable and internet services. With Hardeman County being the fifth largest county geographically in the state, some residents feel this is a necessity.

“It needs to improve dramatically,” resident Ryan Peters said. “It needs to improve even more because we still have people that live off grid at this current moment in harshly rural areas.”

Haslam’s proposal will not only benefit unserved homes and businesses in the area but also will impact local libraries.

“We have five libraries that are spread out throughout the county, so this initiative could really help us with some funding,” County Mayor Sain said.

During Haslam’s State of the State address Monday, he said more than 800,000 Tennesseans don’t have access to broadband. In Hardeman County, Sain said nearly half the residents are affected by it.

“My prayer is that some of our electric corporations or some company will come in with an incentive of the state and be willing to do that and make it profitable for that company so that we can get broadband,” Sain said.

Although Haslam’s legislation has not been approved, Hardeman County leaders said they’re proud the state is recognizing rural areas that need help.

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