Tennessee Needs More Competition Between Internet Providers, According To State Report

Jul 19, 2016

A new survey on broadband Internet, commissioned by the state's economic development office, has a simple takeaway: High-speed internet access is good for business, and Tennessee needs more of it. 

More than one-third of businesses interviewed for this report said they chose where to do business because of broadband access, and three-quarters said broadband is very important to "making operations easier."

But almost all businesses — more than 90 percent — reported that they're not happy with their current options for getting online and aren't finding affordable alternatives.

The study says one of the keys to better internet in Tennessee is increasing competition, noting that businesses with more internet options had much faster speeds. It recommended that the state reduce regulations, making it easier for more companies to provide internet in more places.

"In states where there are no restrictions, administrative burdens or regulatory limitations ... there is more competition and more broadband investment, especially in rural parts of the state," the report says.

For example, Chattanooga's electric utility offers residents some of the fastest internet in the country, but it's not allowed right now to expand to more remote areas. It fought to change that regulation in the state legislature this year, but the bill didn't pass.

The study also recommends exploring tax incentives, outside grants and state funding that would either encourage more broadband growth or pay for infrastructure directly. 

The report's suggestions are just a starting point, says Randy Boyd, head of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. They'll be studied by state experts and could lead to policy changes.