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CWEET is working with Sustainable & Equitable Agricultural Development (SEAD) whose mission is to  increase sustainable and equitable agricultural development and promote healthy connections of environment and community-based enterprises. We are working with local governments to pass resolutions for affordable, local rural broadband.

Broadband access is extremely important for many reasons relevant to our communities. We understand that access can help create a sense of power for people, allowing for the sharing of resources with people across geographies. Broadband is a vital component of infrastructure
for the promotion of community growth, quality of life improvements, and public safety.
Economically, a locally-owned public internet option makes sense for us in several ways.
Money generated stays in our communities instead of being sent to corporate offices outside of the region.

Organizers & Service Providers need reliable high speed internet for:

  • Research and grant writing access that allows for greater civic engagement around state, federal, electoral, and media-related policy issues

  • Physical support for rural businesses and agriculture

  • Empowerment of area schools and the young people they serve through access to information and resources needed for college, career, and entrepreneurial projects

Having a publicly-provided option will increase competition and the quality of internet service in areas with some internet access. In areas of East Tennessee with little or no broadband internet access, a publicly-owned option will provide services to unincorporated areas
underserved or neglected by the big telecommunications corporations.

Finally, the SEAD Task Force believes that access to broadband is a right. President Obama has declared internet to be a utility; just like electricity, sewage and clean water. Provision of that utility should not be a profit-driven service. Through our own research we know that affordable and reliable publicly-owned internet can be done!

Currently, there are nine communities in Tennessee that provide some form of broadband internet through public utilities. The first such project was installed in Bristol, Tennessee, with other cities following suit. Morristown, Erwin, Athens, Johnson City and Pulaski, Tennessee, all have public internet options.

How SEAD is Achieving This?

Community members are working with public utilities and County governments across East Tennessee. Through this engagement, we have taken on the roles of:

  • Conducting research and gathering of information

  • Identifying funding opportunities for municipal infrastructure

  • Acting as facilitators between the public, utility board members, and elected officials

  • Developing long-term working relationships with our public utility board members

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