Since the passing of the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act (TBAA) in 2017, the state has poured more than $100 million into connecting its most rural communities, and more than 20 electric cooperatives throughout the state have spent the last four years making their way into the broadband business.
Back in 2016 and 2017, Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC), along with many other electric cooperatives, advocated for the right to build fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks out to their memberships in the most rural parts of the state. When TBAA passed through the state legislature, removing major barriers for cooperatives to build out their own networks, SVEC got to work.
Today, 23 electric cooperatives in Tennessee have launched their own broadband projects, including SVEConnect, a broadband subsidiary of SVEC offering FTTH that has connected more than 4,400 members across Marion County.
From Electrification to Connectivity
SVEC was formed in 1939 to address the broad gaps in access to electricity throughout the rural areas surrounding Chattanooga, Tennessee in Bledsoe, Grundy, Marion and Sequatchie counties. When the cooperative was first established, the nonprofit’s leaders would frequent community events at churches and neighborhood gatherings, keeping their fingers on the pulse of community needs. The cooperative began offering an essential service: electricity.
More than 80 years later, a new disparity in service was emerging: members in SVEC’s service area were not receiving the same high-speed Internet options that were offered in urban areas around the state.
A problem remained, however. In Tennessee, broadband wasn’t listed in the state statute definition of the “community utility services” cooperatives were allowed to...Read more