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Hartsville Vidette: Government can ease broadband barriers

By Marsha Blackburn

August 16, 2018

Participation in the 21st-century economy depends on access to affordable high-speed Internet. As I travel across the state, mayors, law enforcement officials, teachers, and residents identify broadband access as a top concern.

It is a necessity for students to complete their homework. As a mom, I know how difficult it is to juggle schedules and get children where they need to be for activities, so when you have to add driving to find Internet access to the top of the list, parents are juggling another challenge.

Expanding broadband access will open doors for our small businesses to grow and find new customers, Next Generation 911 will allow individuals to send texts, videos, and photos to emergency responders while providing location accuracy so help is there as soon as you need it. Telemedicine gives rural patients access to specialists without having to travel hours to the nearest hospital. Precision agriculture helps farmers increase yields and ensure profitability.

The bottom line is: you can’t have a 21st-century education, a 21st-century economy, or 21st-century healthcare, if you don’t have 21st-century Internet.

We have already made great progress in closing the digital divide. Tennesseans have seen tremendous progress because of what the General Assembly and Gov. Haslam have done in collaboration with what we’ve done at the federal level. We’ve gotten rules and regulations out of the way and put $600 million in grant money into the rural utility service.

However, there is still work to be done, and sustained growth depends on the continued implementation of policies we know work. Technological advances have played a key role in rural broadband expansion, but technological innovation cannot solve the problem on its own. Government must get out of the way and limit burdensome regulatory barriers that make private investment cost prohibitive.

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