ACLP Releases Profile of Broadband in Tennessee

A summary of ACLP’s TN Broadband Connectivity Profile

Michael Santorelli, Alex Karras


July 27, 2023

The ACLP at New York Law School has released a Profile of broadband connectivity in Tennessee.


The profile:

  • Evaluates the evolution of the state’s legal and regulatory approach to broadband. The Profile notes that the state’s proactive approach to adjusting policy has supported continued private investment in broadband networks.
  • Examines the role that the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) plays in facilitating the entrance of municipal electric utilities into the Tennessee broadband market. The profile also analyzes TVA’s outsized role in governing how these utilities administer access to their poles for broadband deployment purposes – its approach has resulted in higher-than-average pole fees, which, if left unaddressed, could undermine expansion efforts into unserved areas.
  • Assesses the role and impact that broadband networks deployed by municipal electric utilities have had on consumers in the state. Among other findings, the Profile observes that the electric rates charged by municipal utilities that have deployed broadband networks have increased more rapidly than those utilities that have not deployed broadband networks. This finding highlights the need for greater scrutiny by the state Comptroller and the TVA of the performance of these utility-owned networks to ensure that utilities are not engaged in illegal cross- subsidization and that they are not harming captive ratepayers.
  • Offers a data-driven assessment of broadband availability and adoption in the state. Broadband connectivity is generally robust in Tennessee, but discrete challenges on both the supply-side and demand-side remain.


To address remaining connectivity challenges, the Profile offers the following recommendations:

  • Prioritize grant funding for last-mile deployments in unserved areas;
  • Deploy a robust and inclusive BEAD challenge process;
  • Use the BEAD process to address critical pole attachment issues;
  • Revisit and strengthen policies relating to the broadband efforts of non-traditional ISPs (e.g., municipal electric utilities);
  • Assure robust, inclusive, and comprehensive digital equity planning;
  • Promote the availability of subsidies to offset the cost of a broadband subscription and device; and
  • Leverage available digital equity funds to scale proven adoption and training programs.

Michael Santorelli is the Director of the ACLP. Alex Karras is a Senior Fellow at the ACLP.