Gov. Lee says rural broadband is key for state economic development

FRANKLIN, Tennessee — Gov. Bill Lee said all areas of the state need to prosper in order for

Tennessee to be an economic leader, and broadband in rural areas is a key to helping rural Tennesseans thrive.

Speaking to members of the newly renamed Tennessee Broadband Association Tuesday, Lee underscored the investments and efforts of Tennessee’s independent telcos and cooperatives and pledged to help foster solutions for rural broadband expansion in the future.

“What happens in rural Tennessee profoundly impacts every Tennessean,” Lee said.

The governor, who told the audience he can’t get broadband internet speeds at his home, acknowledged that such a lack of connectivity is crippling for someone running a business or pursuing a degree. “We have a lot of work to do,” Lee said. “Every single person in Tennessee’s life can be improved by the things that we do together.”

Lee highlighted economic development, health care and educational opportunities as areas where he felt reliable broadband would have the biggest impact on rural Tennesseans. He mentioned the importance of rural broadband as it relates to telemedicine and health care in his State of the State Address in March.

“We’re moving in the right direction and doing what needs to be done,” Lee told members of the media before his address.

He also detailed his beliefs on government’s role in broadband expansion. “Government can’t provide broadband services all over the state,” he said. “Government’s not the answer, but government has a really important role. We create an environment for collaborative partnerships that will help to solve the problems of our day.”

The Tennessee Broadband Association, formerly the Tennessee Telecommunications Association, is comprised of independent and cooperatively owned companies that connect almost 30 percent of the state with broadband and related services. Together these companies have invested more than $240 million in recent years to connect rural Tennesseans with fiber networks.

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