Letters: In support of TVA broadband

Johnson City Press • Jul 15, 2018 at 6:00 AM

In Monday’s Question of the Week, we asked you if the Tennessee Valley Authority should begin offering high-speed, broadband internet services to rural residents. Here are some of your responses.

A history helping rural residents

Yes, of course. The United States has a long history of providing information and other essential services to rural areas, beginning with rural free delivery of mail in 1896. Soon after, telephone service began to be available in rural areas. As you point out, the TVA brought electricity to thousands of people who lived far from cities. And cable TV originated in 1948 to enhance poor reception of over-the-air television signals in mountainous or geographically remote areas.

Today, we take as granted daily mail delivery to our home, reliable telephone service, universal electricity and cable TV. And almost 99% of US citizens have access to at least one cellphone provider.

With that history and tradition, there is no reason that TVA should not develop a fiber optic network for broadband internet access. By changing just a couple words of one sentence in your article of July 9, 2018, I produced this: “There’s no arguing that broadband helps modernize our region by providing information, which is quickly becoming a necessity to keep up with the rest of the country.”

Further, there is precedent for a public utility to provide broadband. Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board initiated fiber optic service several years ago and now BrightRidge is following suit. Of course commercial internet service providers will howl about unfair competition. If they provided a decent product and backed it with good service, they wouldn’t need to howl. Besides, there’s not enough money in serving rural areas to interest them.

TVA should begin immediately to bring broadband to isolated communities.

Johnson City

Broadband is a necessity of life

Rural access to broadband is a huge issue in East Tennessee. I know this because I work in the cable/telecom industry and I live in Johnson City. My job requires me to speak to many different people around the area, and one of the most common requests is affordable access to internet services. Internet access is an essential utility — like water or electricity — for anybody today. It can be the difference in success in school, a business’s ability to compete, or even just getting a bill paid in time. It connects us in smaller towns to the rest of the world. I think that that Governor Bredesen’s TVA plan would be a welcomed solution to this problem. The TVA has been providing effective utility services all over the state since the 1930s, so why not expand that infrastructure to include broadband? They’ve already started with their $300 million project for fiber optic expansion, so it’s clearly something they’re already looking to expand.

An investment in broadband expansion would also create much needed jobs for skilled and unskilled labor to put up more lines. I understand that people might be wary of a government programs, but, at the end of the day, competition is good for the industry as a whole. We will see prices driven down due to the availability of a cheap public alternative. This encourages private businesses to provide better services- everybody wins! For all these reasons, I’m in favor of Bredesen’s TVA plan.

Johnson City

Students need fast internet

Governor Bredesen’s plan to expand rural broadband access using TVA makes a whole lot of sense to me, and we should send him to the Senate to get it done. Fast and reliable internet, at school and at home, is a necessity for students of all ages today.

The elementary school I work at is lucky to have reliable internet, especially since 34 percent of Tennesseans do not have that same access. And that 34 percent includes students who leave schools with reliable internet to go home to areas without. How can those students be expected to do their homework and keep up with their peers? Clearly, we need a big fix to this problem.

TVA already provides reliable utility service to people across the state and across the region, urban and rural, so why not extend that service to include broadband? TVA, which doesn’t receive any taxpayer money, is a smart and sensible business and a unique asset to our state. We in Tennessee have led the nation so often before, and I think it’s time to do it again to bridge the urban-rural divide.

I support Phil Bredesen’s plan, and I hope he can make it a reality once he goes to the U.S. Senate.

Johnson City

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