The Digital Divide

The “digital divide” is the gap that exists between individuals advantaged by the internet and those individuals disadvantaged by lack of access to the internet. The divide has widened as technology has advanced with the advent of next generation fiber optic broadband that can make 1 GB broadband speeds available. The growing gap disproportionately affects rural areas as rural residents have few choices of internet service providers – or none at all. They pay higher prices for lower quality service.

For small towns, having high-speed Internet can be a critical factor in growth and prosperity (https://broadbandnow.com/report/10-small-towns-with-blazing-fast-internet/). Studies have shown that increased Internet access has a positive effect on employment and economic growth in rural townships. Tullahoma, Tennessee was the focus of a study by Allan Holmes of the Center for Public Integrity in 2015, which drew attention to the huge benefits that next generation fiber optic broadband access brings to small towns.

The positive results on job growth speak for themselves: Employment in Tullahoma lagged statewide job growth before next generation fiber optic broadband was turned on. Since the recession ended in 2009, two years after the city began offering broadband, the city has outpaced job growth in Tennessee. The city added 3,598 jobs from April 2009 to April 2014, a 1.63 percent annual growth rate, about double the statewide rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to Holmes, Tullahoma is one of the battlefronts in a nationwide war that telecommunications giants are fighting to undermine the spread of next generation fiber optic broadband networks. For more than a decade, AT&T, Comcast, and CenturyLink Inc. have spent millions to lobby state legislatures, influence state elections and buy research to try and stop the spread of Internet services that often offer faster speeds at cheaper rates (https://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2014/sep/02/tullahoma-fr...). The companies have succeeded in getting laws passed in 20 states that ban or restrict municipalities from offering Internet to residents.

Holmes found that by far, AT&T is the company with the most political influence. In Tennessee, AT&T spent between $250,000 and $300,000 in 2014 hiring 15 lobbyists, ranking it among the largest spenders, according to the Tennessee Ethics Commission. AT&T's political action committee (PAC) is also the biggest donor among telecommunications companies to state campaigns nationwide. Since 2000, its donations more than tripled to $13.6 million in the 2012 election cycle, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, which tracks campaign contributions in the states. Comcast, the second-largest campaign contributor among telecommunications companies in Tennessee, has upped its PAC giving from about $3,200 in the 2004 election cycle to a record of more than $270,450 in the 2012 cycle, according to the money in state politics institute.

Their influence doesn’t stop in Nashville. Franchise agreements, such as the 20 year agreement Union County entered into with Comcast in 2005, resulted in higher fees for subscribers, no requirement for access for areas of less than twenty (20) dwelling units per mile, burdensome requirements for developers, and specific exclusion of “that portion of Union County north of Norris Lake.” The “cherry picking” of high density areas and favorable permitting requirements for cable deployment discourages other providers from entering the market. Although the 5% of gross receipts in franchise fees may have seemed attractive to elected officials at the time, the little over $30,000.00 annual payment to the county pales in comparison to the estimated $1M in additional annual property tax revenues that would have come from full development, encouraged by the availability of high speed broadband service, of just two communities in Sharps Chapel, Norris Shores and Sunset Bay.

While the telecom giants are battling to restrict competition, rural communities are being economically crippled by the lack of broadband access. In Tennessee’s rural regions, 34 percent of residents lack access to basic internet, according to a report released in July 2016 by the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development (ECD). That disparity weighs on the state’s overall connectivity ranking, now at 29th in the nation, and its ability to improve rural economies. Among the 34 percent are many who simply cannot afford the costly monthly bill for service. The collective deficit in opportunity, education and prospects–everything implied in “being connected”–further separates urban and rural Tennessee into haves and have-nots. According to former ECD Commissioner Randy Boyd, “If we ever want our rural communities to be able to compete and have a chance for success in the future, we have to eliminate that divide. That’s why rural broadband is so critical to our state’s future and the future of our rural communities.”

Participating businesses in this 2016 study reported that broadband enabled 43 percent of all net new jobs and 66 percent of revenues. Additionally, 34 percent of businesses indicated broadband was “essential to selecting their location,” and 56 percent claimed a high-speed connection was essential to remain in their location. Sixteen percent of economic development agencies reported that businesses frequently chose not to locate in an area due to insufficient broadband and realtors say it’s much more difficult to sell homes that aren’t connected. In Tullahoma, if you have fiber optic at a house, your house increases in value anywhere from $4,000 to $7,000 (https://www.tullahomanews.com/news/local/grant-funds-could-expand-broadb...).

The lack of broadband and the advantages it brings to a community is forcing many young people to move away. According to the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research, Union County is experiencing population decline that began in 2011, and without intervention the population decline is expected to extend beyond 2040. Union County is also experiencing out-migration, mainly among 20 – 29 year olds. Union County’s negative population growth and out-migration brings with it severe negative economic consequences including fewer workers available to businesses, fewer customers to buy their goods and services, and a shrinking tax base all resulting in a severe impact on the finances of government. A lack of internet access hurts businesses, hinders education, prevents people from getting jobs, and can even be life-threatening, as emergency services increasingly rely on internet-connected communications and documentation.

Educators have been talking about the “digital divide” for two decades, and while some progress has been made in closing the gap, inequities persist in communities across the country (http://neatoday.org/2016/04/20/the-homework-gap/). Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) points to the so-called “homework gap,” or the barriers students face when working on homework assignments without a reliable Internet source at home. This gap has widened as an increasing number of schools incorporate Internet-based learning into daily curriculum. In 2009, the Federal Communication Commission’s Broadband Task Force reported that approximately 70% of teachers assign homework requiring access to broadband. In addition, about 65% of students used the Internet at home to complete their homework, which could include submitting assignments, connecting with teachers and other students through group discussion boards, working on shared documents as part of a group project and doing online research for a school paper. The homework gap forces students to head over to a neighbor’s house, the library or a commercial parking lot with free Wi-Fi access to complete their homework. Many students are simply unable to finish the work. According to a recent study from the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, Family Online Safety Institute and My College Options, nearly 50% of students say they have been unable to complete a homework assignment because they didn’t have access to the Internet or a computer. Furthermore, 42% of students say they received a lower grade on an assignment due to lack of Internet access. Lack of Internet in Union County has most definitely impacted school performance with SchoolDigger.Com ranking the Union County School District 116th of the 124 Tennessee school districts.

Advertisement

Articles

Agriculture Creates Opportunity

Agriculture Creates Opportunity

One of the most important ways to invest in the future of agriculture is to invest in the people who will become tomorrow’s agriculture industry leaders. Students pursuing the agriculture industry often look for careers in planning, implementation, production, management, processing, education, or marketing ag products and services. Tennessee Department of Education predicts that over 60,000 high-skilled agricultural jobs open annually in the United States with just around 35,400 graduates in the Ag, Food, and Natural Resources program studies to fill the openings.

Homer Johnson Stays Busy with Backyard Farm

Homer Johnson on his small farm in Halls

Who says you have to give up farm life if you move to a subdivision?

Not Homer Johnson. Born in Union County and now living in the Cedar Chase subdivision in Halls, Johnson has kept farming and selling his produce. Just this year, he sold 1,500 ears of peaches and cream corn, along with sweet potatoes, okra, tomatoes, peppers, watermelon and cantaloupe. All this is thanks to a lot of just over two acres he bought from Knox County. It sits in the floodplain and has a TVA easement running through it, so a vegetable garden is just about all he could do with it.

Start By Believing Pledge

Rachel "Liz" Stiner

Did you know that every two minutes someone is sexually assaulted in the U.S.? Many survivors of this abuse do not say anything because they are afraid no one will believe them. Often times a survivor will tell a friend or family member and they are accused of lying or "asking" to be assaulted. As the Sexual Assault Advocate and SART Coordinator for the Union County area I am taking the 'Start By Believing" Pledge to show that I am fully committed to believing each and every person that comes to me as a current victim or survivor.

Winter Tree Pruning

Pruning

Winter is a good time to prune most trees because they are dormant and their leaves are off, making it easier to see how the branches are laid out. Here are some general guidelines to help keep your trees healthier and more attractive.

Tags: 

Coming in the Clouds

COMING IN THE CLOUDS

Mark 13:26
“And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.”

In Matthew 13:26, what did Jesus mean by the “coming in the clouds” part of His statement? Three of the four Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark and Luke) all record Jesus’ discussion with His disciples in what is commonly referred to by theologians as “The Olivet Discourse”. We are not going to keep you in suspense, “coming in the clouds” is a figure of speech, or metaphor for Judgement. More specifically the word, “clouds” in this context is a Biblical Metaphor for Judgement.

Baked Doughnuts

Baked Doughnuts

I have had this recipe for years. I love doughnuts, either cake or yeast. I don't eat them much any more. They quickly add pounds to this old frame. With no exercise and a healthy appetite, Anne limits my diet as best she can. However, sometimes we do splurge.

Krispy Creme is on my “do not even look that way” list as we drive by. I do sneak sweets at Revival Vision Church of God's Sunday morning coffee hour before Sunday School. Pat Hunt makes some tasty goodies.

Beach Dental Floss

Brooke Cox

My family and I have had many adventures in Ormond Beach. One is still burned into my memory.

Ormond Beach is like a home away from home for us. When we go down there to visit my step brother and sisters in October, we seem to hit Bike week. It is held in Daytona Beach, which is right below Ormond.

Marinated Vegetable Salad

Marinated Vegetable Salad

New Years 2019 is here ready to start us on another year long adventure. Black eyed peas are supposed to bring good luck. Maybe so, but they taste good anyway. Here is an easy recipe to make. You probably already have the ingredients in your pantry. No need to trudge out to Food City. Let's get marinating!

Events

Victory Church Gospel Sing Benefit

Saturday, January 19, 2019 - 15:00

Victory Church with Pastor Jeff Eversole, will be hosting a Benefit Gospel Sing, Saturday January 19th @ 3 PM at the Paulette Community Center. Please come out & join us for a time of fun & fellowship! There will be food available with all proceeds benefiting the Victory Church Building Fund. For further information, please contact Danny Davis @ 865-640-5826. Hope to see you there!

Need A Ride To Church

Sunday, January 20, 2019 - 10:00
Need A Ride To Church

Fellowship Christian Church located at 746 Tazewell Pike Luttrell TN 37779 will pickup anyone in the local area needing a ride to church. Call Sam at 865-607-3741 to schedule a ride.

Worship Services

Sunday School 10:00 AM
Sunday Worship Service 11:00 A.M
Sunday Evening Service 6:30 P.M
Wednesday Service 7:00 P.M

Babies and Bagels Program at Luttrell Public Library

Monday, January 21, 2019 - 10:30

Every Tuesday at 10:30 am (unless closed due to holiday) Luttrell Public Library volunteer, Celeste Lanzon, teaches and inspires babies to Pre-K students (siblings are welcome) to learn and engage in fun activities including music and movement and always a story. Highly qualified, Mrs. Celeste has an education degree and professional teaching experience, so that your child is benefiting immensely during this program.

Wine and Canvas with Betty Bullen

Thursday, January 24, 2019 - 18:00

Betty is teaching another wonderful Wine and Canvas Class! This class we will be painting Red Breasted Blue Birds!

Sip on some wine and learn to paint from one of Union Counties best! Supplies are included.

Tickets are only $35 and must be purchased in advance by calling (865) 745-2902 or by coming into The Winery.

Seating is limited and fills up very fast so make sure you reserve your ticket today!

Obituary

Rosemary Gail (Wilkerson) Johnson Obituary

Rosemary Gail (Wilkerson) Johnson, of Halls/Plainview, went to be with our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ on Friday January 18, 2019. Rosemary spent 4 years fighting a rare mantle cell lymphoma. Rosemary loved her family, was a believer in Christ, an animal lover, and an all-around genuine person. She was preceded in death by her loving parents, Roy & Mary Lynn Wilkerson; father in law, Raymond Johnson; and brother in law Ray Johnson.

Obituary of Lloyd Russell Lee Sr.

Lloyd Russell Lee Sr., age 68, of Knoxville, Tn was born July 6, 1950 and departed this earthly life on January 17, 2019 to gain his new body in heaven. His life was filled with the love of Nascar, Semi-Trucks, and Family. Lloyd was a self employed over the road truck driver for his entire life to provide for his ever-growing family. Married to Sandra “Sandy” Lee on January 4th 1969, they shared their love of 50 years with their 3 sons Rusty (spouse Mary Duso), Jimmy (wife April), and Billy (spouse Becky Litton).

Ted George Jones

Ted Jones, age 67, of Knoxville passed away on January 17, 2019. He was a bus operator for Knoxville Area Transit for over 43 years, and a member of Amalgamated Transit Union. He was a member of West Side Baptist church. Preceded in death by parents George & Neoma Jones, grandparents William Ellis & Flora Shuemaker, father-in-law Jack Jones.

Nathan Samuel Davis

Nathan Samuel Davis – age 23 of Maynardville, passed away Sunday, January 13, 2019.

He is survived by his parents, Luther and Julia Davis; and sister, Gabriela Eby.

A celebration of life service is being planned for a later date. Trinity Funeral Home, LLC, Maynardville, has the honor to serve the family of Nathan Davis. 865-992-5002 www.trinityfuneralhome.net

Edward Robert Collette

Edward Robert Collette went to be with his Lord and Savior January 10th, 2019.
Ed was born September 19, 1964. Ed graduated the University of Florida with a degree in Environmental Engineering. He was elected and served as international president of the honor society Phi Theta Kappa. He loved the ocean and spent a better part of his life on the beaches in Florida. His hobbies included fishing, scuba diving, body building, hunting and wood working.

Jack Ray Bohanan

Jack Ray Bohanan, age 78 of Powell, passed away peacefully on January 16, 2019 surrounded by his family and close friends.
He was a longtime member and deacon of Smithwood Baptist Church.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Jack and Ruby Bohanan; father and mother-in-law, LeRoy and Nellene Buckner; and brother, Jerry Bohanan.

Jason Shane Hubbs Jr.

Jason Shane Hubbs Jr., age 31, went home to be with his heavenly father January 13, 2019 while surrounded by his family and friends at UT Hospital, due to an automobile accident. He is preceded in death by his papaw and grandmaw Marvin and Twila DeCost, papaw Joe T. Hubbs; uncles Jeff Humphrey, Tony Hubbs, and Steve Buckner. Jason was the son of Jason and Crystal Hubbs and was the most amazing brother to Dustin, Justin, and Autumn. He was also the most amazing, loving, and caring father. His whole world was his son Cason Shane Hubbs.

Barbara E. Acuff

Barbara E. (Hunter) Acuff-age 88 of Corryton passed away Monday, January 14, 2019 at North Knoxville Medical Center. She was a member of Clear Branch Baptist Church. Preceded in death by husband, Bill Acuff, parents, Clarence and Mossie (Wallace) Hunter; sisters, Geniva and Roy Burnett; Elise and Ken Beeler, Wanda and Don Beeler, Lois and Heral Kitts, Joyce Williams, brothers, Author, Earl, Ralph and Paul Hunter.

Survivors: sister, Carolyn (Leroy) Hensley of Luttrell; special sister-in-law, Lorene Hunter of Knoxville; several nieces and nephews along with a host of friends.

The opinions expressed by columnists and those providing comments are theirs alone, and may not reflect the opinions of Russell Computer Systems, Inc or any employee thereof.