The law creates the “Tennessee broadband deployment fund” to be used to promote the deployment of broadband service to rural areas. Guidelines will be developed to govern use of the funds, and grants will be available to local governments, cable companies, and telecommunications companies.
Cities now have the authority to enter into joint ventures with one or more third parties to provide broadband services. Joint ventures will be authorized only in areas that are historically unserved. City electric companies and electric cooperatives that participate in these joint ventures must still comply with other applicable statutes, and no revenues from utility operations may be used to subsidize the joint venture.
Cities and utilities are required to provide access to poles and conduit located in public rights-of-way to any entity seeking to provide broadband service in historically unserved areas. Cities having ordinances levying pole attachment fees must modify those charges for broadband deployment in those areas. Cities cannot charge utility pole attachment rates that are higher than 50 percent of the rates charged as of January 1, 2008, to a cable or video service provider or to telecommunications joint ventures seeking to provide broadband services to historically unserved areas. This requirement for discounted pole attachment rates will be in effect until at least July 1, 2018, unless the date is extended by the legislature.