Rural Tennesseans Limited in Internet Choices

Jamie McGee, jmcgee@tennessean.com
Tullahoma, Tennessee

Tullahoma, Tennessee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s usually between the 10th and the 15th day of the month when Clifton and Joanna Miller’s satellite Internet account hits its data cap. Clifton, a lawyer, and Joanna, a sixth-grade math teacher, are unable to work from home. Their 16-year-old daughter, who depends on access for homework, takes a laptop to her grandmother’s house nearby to complete her assignments until a new month begins.

The Millers’ house is less than a mile from Tullahoma‘s city limit, but under state law, the Tullahoma Utilities Board cannot extend its high-speed fiber Internet network outside its electric service footprint. They would settle for basic broadband from other providers, but those companies — AT&T and Charter Communications — don’t reach his neighborhood.

“Having Internet connection is a crucial part of daily life,” Clifton Miller said. “If (private-sector companies) are not going to provide us with the utility, then someone should be allowed to give it to us.”

The same scenario is playing out throughout the state as demand increases for reliable Internet access. Tullahoma is among several Tennessee cities — Chattanooga, Clarksville, Jackson, Bristol, Morristown, Pulaski and Columbia — that offer broadband access to residents and businesses, often at cheaper rates and faster speeds than the private-sector providers, and unlike satellite, they don’t include data caps. Those in neighboring communities want the option of fiber access or, in many cases, just any kind of broadband access to fill in the gaps left by the private sector.

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About Mark Milliman

Mark Milliman is a Principal Consultant at Inphotonics Research driving the adoption and assisting local governments to plan, build, operate, and lease access open-access municipal broadband networks. Additionally, he works with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to increase the value of their intellectual capital through the creation of strategic product plans and execution of innovative marketing strategies. With more than 22 years of experience in the telecommunications industry that began at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Mark has built fiber, cable, and wireless networks around the world to deliver voice, video, and data services. His thorough knowledge of all aspects of service delivery from content creation to the design, operation, and management of the network is utilized by carriers and equipment manufacturers. Mark conceived and developed one of the industry's first multi-service provisioning platform and is multiple patent holder. He is active in the IEEE as a senior member. Mark received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.
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