Haslam’s rural broadband service bill amended to include video

Tennessee’s rural electric cooperatives will be allowed to offer video to customers as well as broadband services under an amended version of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Broadband Accessibility Act, reports the Times-Free Press.

In response to concerns raised by proponents of broadband expansion, the governor added video offerings to the legislation as it moved through the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee on Tuesday.

“The administration and interested parties have made a good bill even better,” Assistant Majority Leader David Hawk, R-Greeneville, who is carrying the governor’s bill (HB529) told panel members.

While the bill’s goal is make broadband internet accessible in the state’s underserved areas, Hawk noted, “we also want broadband to be adopted.”

Allowing the nonprofit electric co-ops to have cable-like television offerings is a way of doing that in rural Tennessee where 34 percent of residents don’t have broadband access, the leader noted.

The offering of video also is widely viewed as a means of offering high-speed broadband for businesses, health care offices and facilities and residential users financially viable. The legislation prohibits the electric co-ops from cross-subsidizing their broadband operations from power revenues and would be required to create stand-alone broadband operations.

Moreover, the state’s 23 co-ops would only be able to offer video within their current service areas under the legislation.

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