We Need Affordable and Reliable Publicly-Accountable Broadband

Fact Sheets and Data:

Localities We’re Currently Working With:

Newport Utilities Board, Campbell County Mayor’s Office, East Tennessee Development District for Campbell County, Morristown Utilities Systems, LaFollette Utilities Board, Greeneville City Schools, Hancock County Mayor’s Office, Jackson Energy Authority, Tennessee Valley Authority, Grainger County Industrial Board, Jackson-Madison County NAACP, Connect Hickman County, Perry County Chamber of Commerce, Jackson Energy Authority, Clarksville Department of Energy

fiber-1The Sustainable and Equitable Agricultural Development (SEAD) Task Force of CEDnet is a coalition of groups and local residents leading a broadband campaign aiming to assist our public utility boards in the installation and provision of high-speed fiber optic internet service to rural East Tennessee.  The SEAD task force is made up of nearly a dozen rural organizations representing under-served and underrepresented communities.

Broadband access is extremely important to our work as local, on-the-ground organizers and residents. We understand that access can help create a sense of power for people, allowing for the sharing of resources across geographies, reducing isolation and fortifying efforts. Broadband is vital infrastructure for healthy economic growth, quality of life improvements, public safety and education.

fiber-2The Federal Communications Commission has declared internet to be a utility; just like electricity, sewage and clean water.

We believe provision of that utility should not be a profit-driven service and access to that utility is a right.

Economically, a locally-owned public internet option makes sense for us in several ways;

  • The money generated stays in our communities instead of being sent to corporations outside of the region.

  • Organizers & Service Providers can effectively conduct research, write grants, disseminate materials and execute outreach from where they work.

  • Increased venue for civic engagement and public education around local, state and federal policy.

  • Support for rural businesses and family agricultural projects.

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


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, Tullahoma and Pulaski Tennessee all have public internet options.

In spite of the successful implementation of these systems, there are many areas in the hills of Eastern Tennessee where residents are relegated to expensive, poor-quality internet service only through satellite companies, if at all.

Through pressure from large telecommunications companies, the State of Tennessee passed legislation modeled on American Legislative Exchange Council language that limited the ability of utilities to provide broadband internet outside of their current service footprint, or in support of neighboring utilities who desire to provide high-speed internet for their residents. That Tennessee law, stifling publicly-owned systems, was struck down by the Federal Communications Commission. Subsequently, the TN Attorney General Herbert Slatery filed and won suit against the FCC claiming that the FCC’s preemption was a violation of States rights.

Fortunately, communities we have some options with-in current Tennessee state laws that allow for alternative models of broadband provision partnerships between electric cooperatives, telephone cooperatives, local private providers and municipal projects that can act to bridge the digital divide in our mountain communities.

Our Work

  • Public Education around State & Federal broadband policy.

  • Education of our local elected officials and stakeholders.

  • Research and identification of funding opportunities to support rural broadband infrastructure.

  • Education of public utility & electric cooperative board members.

  • Facilitation of conversations and strategy with the rural residents, local utility boards and elected officials.

  • Continued outreach to, and engagement of, affected communities. Public education through forums, events and produced materials around State and Federal-level policy work.

Our Team

scottScott Banbury is a lifelong environmental activist and community organizer. He currently serves as the Conservation Program Coordinator and registered state lobbyist for the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club. He’s been involved in extreme extraction and environmental justice issues in the Southeast for more than twenty years as a Sierra Club leader. Along the way he helped found several organizations, including the Dogwood Alliance and the Tennessee Clean Water Network. Scott lives in Memphis, TN and works across the State of Tennessee and Southeast region.
jamieJamie Greig is a 2nd year PHD student and Teaching Associate at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Originally from Aberdeen, Scotland, he has a BA (1st class honors) in Journalism from the Robert Gordon University and a MS in Communication and Information from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. His primary area of research is Communication Law & Policy, specifically, FCC regulation of the communication industry. His focus on Tennessee looks at models of rural broadband deployment and state legislative barriers to municipal broadband expansion.
aprilApril Jarocki is a second year AmeriCorps Vista working with the Woodland Community Land Trust. April’s family is from Clairfield and she grew up spending her summer in this mountain community. Today she is raising her children, helping her parents out is an important part of the community. She is working to build a brighter future in this small unincorporated area.  April’s leads a citizen water monitoring project, works on economic diversification initiatives, plans community events and supports the Rural Broadband Campaign.  She attended the Southwestern College of Business and studied CNA at the Tennessee Technology Center.
williamWilliam Isom II is the director of community outreach for East Tennessee PBS and a coordinator for the Rural Broadband Campaign. He’s a native of Hamblen County, Tennessee and works at the juncture of land, media and racial justice in his home region. William assists with policy strategy, infrastructure development and resident support for the expansion of publicly-owned fiber optic broadband service in rural communities.
debbieDeborah Bahr is the Director of CWEET, Clean Water Expected in East Tennessee. She has been a mother, artist and community organizer living in East Tennessee for almost 30 years. She holds a degree in Woman’s Studies from the University of Tennessee and is passionate about women and youth. Deborah is a mentor and life coach and is dedicated to a clean Pigeon River and the development of healthy Appalachian economies.
jakeJake Resor is a recent graduate of Duke Divinity School and a life-long Tennesseean. A native of Rutherford county, he is currently a first-year Americorps serving in Knoxville. Trained in philosophy and theology, he is dedicated to community self-determination and seeks to understand the values at play behind seemingly intractable problems facing communities and society as a way to approach those problems. In his spare time, he does videography and photography for non-profit organizations.
djDarrell J Coker “DJ” is a resident of Duff, Tennessee and acts as the Federal policy liaison for the Rural Broadband Campaign. In East Tennessee DJ works on educational programming and organizing with-in community. He’s a working member of the Tennessee Appalachian Community Economics project, Stay Together Appalachian Youth, the Duff Road Group and the Clearfork Community Institute. In his spare time DJ hikes, geeks out on science, reads and drinks coffee.
bonnieBonnie Swinford has served as a nonprofit consultant for 9 years working with grassroots, social, and environmental justice organizations on leadership development, community organizing, strategic planning, fundraising, and capacity building. She currently consults with the TN Chapter of Sierra Club as a Just Transition organizer. Prior to working with nonprofits, Bonnie was the director and science teacher for a Montessori middle school and worked with environmental education programs across the southeast. Bonnie earned an Interdisciplinary Degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Tennessee and she holds certifications in leadership development, experiential education, grant writing, and nonprofit management.
carolCarol Judy is a wild woman and knows quite a bit about forest management and the uses of plants as value added products for people and woods. She and many others love her/our mountains in Central Appalachia and promote the value of them as a temperate rain forest..  feeding water and air to those beyond the boundaries of the land. One of three founders of Fair Trade Appalachia and consistent promoter of Community Land Trust.. life is an on-going education.
katieCaitlin Myers is a fourth-year undergraduate student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in the College of Arts & Sciences.  She is a participant in the College Scholars Honor program, with an emphasis in  political ecology.  She is interested in rural development issues in the southern Appalachian region.  Caitlin is currently working on her undergraduate thesis on the topic of rural broadband expansion, and its relationship to community self-determination, autonomy, and grassroots economic development in East Tennessee.
aftynFrom Appalachia to the United Nations, Aftyn Behn is passionate about empowering diverse communities’ to be change agents. Her latest endeavor focused on improving accessibility through connectivity of people in forced displacement for the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Aftyn attended the University of Texas at Austin, graduating with a Master’s in Social Work. She’s a Knoxville native and a lifelong Girl Scout. Currently, she strives to emulate Dolly Parton, utilizing her charisma and experience to move Tennessee forward.
billBill McCabe is a retired organizer and high school social studies teacher living for the last 12 years on Clinch Mountain in Hancock, TN. He has spent most of his adult life working to insure social, economic, and environmental justice. Most recently he has used his training, time and energy to support those working to insure a just economic transition in Appalachia including participation in broadband, land reform, and energy efficiency efforts. He is also an active supporter of Black Lives Matters in his local communities.

Partnering Organizations

Community Economic Development Network of East Tennessee (CEDnet), Appalachian Community Economics Project, Tennessee Chapter of Sierra Club, Clean Water Expected in East Tennessee, Woodland Community Land Trust, Clearfork Community Institute, Mountain Parent Resource Center,  Narrow Ridge Earth Literacy Center, Rural Resources, African American Heritage Alliance of East Tennessee, Latino Task Force of Knoxville, Broadband for Rocky Flats, Media Action Grassroots Network, Community Networks, TN4Fiber, Institute for Local Self Reliance