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.

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Articles

Truan Targets Cumberland

Pictured, seated L-R: Dalton Truan, Cathy Norris, aunt; standing L-R: Cumberlands head wrestling coach Travis Barroquillo, UCHS head wrestling coach James Ramirez, UCHS head football coach Larry Kerr and UCHS assistant football coach Josh Kerr.

Pictured, seated L-R: Dalton Truan, Cathy Norris, aunt; standing L-R: Cumberlands head wrestling coach Travis Barroquillo, UCHS head wrestling coach James Ramirez, UCHS head football coach Larry Kerr and UCHS assistant football coach Josh Kerr.

Union County High School senior Dalton Truan signed to wrestle with University of the Cumberlands Patriots April 10.

“Dalton is the hardest working guy, day in, day out,” said UCHS head wrestling coach James Ramirez.

Local Youths Succeed in 4-H

Pictured - Raven Walker with her Blue Ribbon Lemon Drizzle Muffins

March is Extension Month in Tennessee. Established in 2015 by a proclamation from the Tennessee General Assembly, Extension Month celebrates the educational outreach, service, and economic impact achieved by Extension across the state. Over these past three years since Extension Month began, county offices across the state have used the month as a way to showcase their programs and attract new clientele. Union County Extension took March as an opportunity to celebrate successes, tell stories, and show new and current audiences the value that Extension brings to their lives and communities.

Self-Assessing Back Pain by App Just as Effective as Traditional Methods, Study Shows

Patients can assess their own back pain using an app on their phone or tablet as effectively as current paper methods, a new study has shown. The study demonstrates that digital versions of established measurements for assessing back pain are just as reliable and responsive, opening the possibility for their use by patients for routine measurements and clinical trials.

The researchers see this study as a necessary first step in the greater use of digital media in clinical settings, in light of recent calls for greater use of such technology by healthcare providers.

Smelling Vinegar

I know it sounds weird, but I enjoy the smell of vinegar. It brings back some awesome childhood memories of Easter.

When I was growing up, we always used the PAAS® kits to die Easter Eggs. My mom dropped the colored tablets into coffee cups and poured a certain amount of vinegar onto each one.

Musical Money

Ronnie Mincey

Those who know me well probably won’t believe this, but the first money I remember earning was for singing.

When I was about four or five years old my family rented a house on Academy Street in downtown Maynardville. The yard did not have much grass in either the front or the back.

Poke Salad, a Mountain Tradition

Polk

A family tradition my mom kept was to seek out young poke sprouts in the spring and make poke salad, a king of cooked green. Back before grocery store chains and refrigeration, country folk came out of winter craving a fresh green to eat, and poke was one of the newly sprouted plants that were sought out, along with “creesies” or spring crest.

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Kudzu

Public domain file photo. Kudzu growing in Atlanta.

Who, in the South, doesn’t know kudzu? And usually curses it.

It has several names: The Vine that Ate the South, Mile a Minute Vine, and Foot-a-Night Vine. Whatever you call it, we commonly see it along the roadsides, covering bushes, trees, and telephone poles. Where did it come from?

What is Life?

Sophia the Robot

Back in 1989, an episode of the television series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, aired that posed an intriguing question. It’s a question that thirty years later generates even more head-scratching. The title of the episode was “The Measure of a Man.” At the focus of the story sat an android who represented the pinnacle of contemporary artificial intelligence.

Events

College & Career Fair

Thursday, April 18, 2019 - 12:00
Union County High School

We are having a College & Career Fair at Union County High School on April 18th from noon until 3pm. This is not only for the high school students it is for the community too. I have a flyer that I can send to you with all of the information.

Wine and Design

Thursday, April 18, 2019 - 18:00

This month, join us for a fun Wine and Design event.
During this class, get ready for Easter by painting and crafting a bunny wine bottle and a flower sign. The class is only
$25 and includes all the materials needed as well as a glass
of wine. Tickets must be purchased in advance by calling The Winery at (865)745-2902.

Need A Ride To Church

Sunday, April 21, 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

Obituary

Samuel Charles Talbott II

Samuel Charles Talbott II age 42 passed away unexpectedly Monday morning April 15, 2019. Preceded in death by father, Samuel Charles Talbott; daughter, Kaylie Talbott. He is survived by mother, Patty Talbott (Danny Baker); son, Hayden Bailey; sister, Lisa Armentrout; nieces, Alyssa Hawkins (Brandon) and Abby Armentrout; great-nephew, Dalton Hawkins; special friend, Tandy Vanzant; many aunts, uncles, and cousins. Sammy was a graduate of Horace Maynard High School. Like his father, he never met a stranger and made friends everywhere he went.

Eastridge, Doris Ann

Doris Ann Eastridge – age 73 of New Tazewell, passed away peacefully at her home on April 15, 2019. She was a member of Carr’s Branch Missionary Baptist Church. Doris was retired from the Claiborne County School System.

Curits E. (Kurt) Russell, II

Curtis E. (Kurt) Russell, II-age 44 of Knoxville passed away suddenly Sunday, April 14, 2019 at his home. Kurt was a member of Beaver Dam Baptist Church attending First Comforter Church. He was a 1992 graduate of Halls High School. He loved playing the guitar; singing and recording at Songwriters Studio. Many years he took guitar lessons from Ed Wing and voice lessons from Terri McClellan. His dad taught him to enjoy U. T. Football at an early age. He loved life, his family and friends.

Thurman "Truman" E. Davis

Thurman Eugene Davis-age 70 of Knoxville, known as T.D. to his friends went home to be with the Lord Sunday morning, April 14, 2019 at Tennova North Medical Center. Thurman proudly served his country in the Army 1969 – 1975. Preceded in death by his loving wife, Susan Diane Davis; parents, Cody and Nettie Davis; brothers, Hubert, Carlos, R. V., Hobert and Hessie Davis; sister, Margie Davis.

Ray Buckner

Ray Edward Buckner-age 80 of Maynardville passed away Sunday morning, April 14, 2019 at Willow Ridge Center. Preceded in death by father, Frank Buckner; mother, Susie Waggoner Buckner; brothers, Frank Buckner, Jr.; Paris Kitts; sister, Mildred Kitts Loy.

Survivors: sons, Jeff Kitts of Maynardville; Tim Kitts of Knoxville; daughter, Brenda Kitts of Knoxville; brother, Billy (Todd) Buckner of Maynardville; sister, Jean Fields of Knoxville. Several nieces and nephews.

Helen Arnold

Attoway Helen Arnold-age 76 of Washburn passed away Wednesday morning, April 10, 2019 at Morristown-Hamblen Hospital. She was born June 15, 1942 the daughter of the late John and Bessie Hensley and is also preceded in death by son, Richard Arnold and grandson, Jaylynn Singleton.

Iva Geraldine (Gerry) Tipton

Iva Geraldine (Gerry) Tipton, age 84, Corryton, TN went home to be with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, on Friday, April 12, 2019. She was a faithful member of Ridgeview Heights Baptist Church. She was a beloved wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Preceded in death by parents Fred and Bonnie Webber, brothers Lawrence and Briscoe Webber, sister Mary Lett and son-in-law Steve Griffith.

Von C. Merritt

Von C Merritt went to be with his Savior April 12, 2019. He was a member of Fountain City United Methodist Church. Preceded in death by parents George and Hazel Merritt, and Brother Ron Merritt. Survived by wife Mary Ann Merritt, brothers and sisters-in-law Jim and Delsie Merritt, Al and June Merritt, sisters and brothers-in-law Marie and Jack Rhyne, Janice and Bob Pendergrass, Almeda and Steve Lewis, and sister-in-law Maudella Merritt. The family will receive friends from 5:30 - 7:30 pm on Monday, April 15, 2019 at Mynatt Funeral Home Halls Chapel.

Pauline "Polly" Lucille Hodson Smith

Pauline “Polly” Lucille Hodson Smith age 68 of Knoxville passed away on Friday April 12, 2019, surrounded by her family. Polly retired from First Tennessee Bank after 30 years of service. She spent her retirement years serving as a teacher for the Parents Day Out program at Union Baptist Church and also enjoyed working for Purple Plum Estate Sales, when not at work she loved spending time with her Terry Point Campground family. Preceded in death by her parents, Ralph and Helen Hodson; brother Dennis Hodson.

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.