NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The three-year effort to improve internet service in rural Tennessee will have to wait another year after another bill ran into opposition.
Thousands of Tennesseans have signed petitions, made phone calls and sent emails.
Major internet providers are against allowing municipal utilities and co-ops from offering broadband internet, leaving many residents waiting for faster service.
Centerville Mayor Gary Jacobs said the rural town has been courting business, but is running into problems without high speed internet.
“Where it used to be icing on the cake, it is the cake now,” Jacobs said. “If you don’t have it, you’re not in the running. There are too many sites around the state that have it, you’re not in the running.”
It also hurts rural students who are using the internet for education. Trina Bates of Perry County is working toward her advanced nursing degree.
“There are very limited options and very slow,” Bates said. “A 15-minute assignment online can take me an hour, two to do because page loads take so long.”
Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, represents seven rural counties, including Coffee, Warren, Van Buren and Grundy.
For three years, she has tried to pass a bill that would deregulate high speed internet and allow small municipal utilities and co-ops to offer service. That is currently against the law.
Bowling’s bill is now flirting with death again.
“The need has reached critical mass. The people are rising up and saying we can’t survive in the 21st century,” Bowling said. “What we have right now that’s prevailing in Tennessee is cronyism.”
Bowling said she understands why internet companies don’t want others in their business, but doesn’t understand why Tennessee legislators would vote on the site of business that hurts rural Tennesseans.