By Harold Ford Jr.
Economic opportunity is indisputably linked to the internet as online tools increasingly help people find jobs and allow businesses to grow by reaching new markets around the world.
But to connect all Tennesseans to the promise of the digital era, we need to reform federal regulations that hinder capital investment and the expansion of high-speed internet access to the state’s rural communities.
These days, it’s hard to find a family business or larger enterprise that does not use internet connectivity to conduct their work, maintain an online presence, or engage with customers online in some meaningful way.
In fact, 34 percent of businesses in Tennessee say broadband access is essential in deciding where to locate, while 56 percent call it essential for remaining in their location.
The same is true for workers, who increasingly rely on the internet to advance their careers. Recent surveys show an overwhelming majority of job seekers used the internet to apply for a job. Likewise, more Americans are turning to online learning tools to gain new skills.
But for tens of thousands of Tennesseans, these benefits remain out of reach. According to Governor Haslam’s office, more than one-third of residents in rural communities lack multiple options for a high-speed internet connection.