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FERRIER FILES: High speed internet brings competition, access to rural Tennessee

(WZTV)

It is an easy thing to take for granted, but people in rural Tennessee who don't have high speed internet feel it every day in so many ways.

“Whether you live in a high rise or a holler, you need to have access,” said Town of Centerville Mayor Gary Jacobs. "We are all Tennesseans. We all pay taxes. We all love our state, our community, and we want to see our people do good."

Mayor Jacobs said the first things a business will ask about when considering relocating to Hickman County are; how much is land and how is your internet.

Not to mention home-based businesses in Hickman County that need high speed internet to compete.

Something you probably haven't thought of-- school kids.

“Your students are at a disadvantage," Jacobs said. "They can't compete, do their homework at night, access college level courses."

Mayor Jacobs was able to get high speed internet to the town of Centerville, and it has been wonderful. The county itself is still waiting for high speed access.

"That's just not right in today's time,” said Jacobs. "It is a real problem."

Earlier this year, the legislature approved $30 million in grants and $15 million in tax breaks for rural and economically disadvantaged areas to get internet.

Places where small companies just couldn't risk it.

“In a rural area there might be four or five thousand in a little town and then maybe four or five customers per mile, and our average take rate is only 60 percent," Knowles said. "So you can see it's very difficult when you only have a few customers per mile. This grant money it kind of puts you over the bubble in taking a risk."

Levoy Knowles is the Executive director of the Tennessee Telecommunications Association.

The question is who will get the grants. The rules for application are still being written.

Fox 17 News will report which communities are getting high speed internet once it's been released.

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