If you’ve ever had to travel to get access to the internet – whether to a library or a restaurant in a nearby town, or any other community resource that has that critical connection to the world of information – you understand the excitement we have here in Tennessee as the first state to announce a project funded through USDA’s ReConnect rural broadband infrastructure program.
I was proud to be able to join our Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, here in western Tennessee as he announced the award to Forked Deer Electric Cooperative. The project is going to have a powerful impact throughout Crockett, Dyer, and Lauderdale counties as the residents, farmers, and business owners will no longer have to drive in towards Memphis to get anything better than dial-up speeds. That’s going to have a positive cascading effect on our agricultural sectors, small business and commerce, as well as education and health care, public safety – all of these different aspects of rural life that will be impacted by this investment.
Take Hurt Seed Company in Halls, Tennessee for example. Secretary Perdue and I visited Ray Hurt’s facility and got to talk with him about his day-to-day operations and how he felt this investment would change his business model. Ray’s one that only has access to a dial-up connection right now, and this broadband access will not only allow him to access information and customers better – it opens up his seeds to a global marketplace, and I’ll be the first to say our Tennessee products can compete with anyone, anywhere.
ReConnect is a key component to improving our rural economy not just here in Tennessee, but across our nation. This is critical investment that will provide opportunity for rural communities like we have here in western Tennessee to thrive; and when rural America thrives, all America thrives.