Melange of Appalachia’s Campaign for Broadband Reaches Rural Voters

May 12, 2017

Melange of Appalachia supports the creation and operation of community radio stations and community centers with the goal of disseminating useful information and resources to the general public. These spaces provide venue for social justice organizations, musicians and individuals to engage and participate in cultural exchange and the dissemination of information to the community. It engages in several campaigns to further this larger goal, including a Rural Broadband campaign. Thanks to support from Voqal, Melange continued its work on this important campaign in 2016.

The Rural Broadband campaign utilizes lobbying, public education and research to secure political will, resources and popular support for the development and implementation of affordable and reliable publicly-owned broadband for rural Tennesseans. Most of this work is done alongside other members of the Sustainable and Equitable Agricultural Development (SEAD) Task Force. This taskforce is a coalition of groups and local residents leading a broadband campaign aiming to assist Tennessee’s public utility boards, electric cooperatives and local governments in the installation and provision of high-speed 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.

Thanks to the financial support of Voqal, Melange built an active grassroots network across the state of Tennessee that included small broadband providers, electric cooperatives, public entities, nonprofits and other grassroots organizations. That network is providing venues for residents and stakeholders to engage with the government and broadband providers around the digital divide in Tennessee’s mountain communities. In addition, resolutions in support of public broadband expansion and removal of state restrictions were secured in Campbell, Claiborne, Cocke, Greene, Jefferson, Sevier, Hancock and Hawkins counties, as well as the cities of Bristol and Greeneville. Finally, thanks to this effort the issue of rural broadband was moved to the forefront of the governor’s policy agenda in the form of the Broadband Accessibility Act.

During 2016, Melange and the SEAD task force made great strides in their efforts at creating a more positive environment for expanding reliable broadband internet to rural communities in Tennessee. As a strong believer of the need to bridge the digital divide to create a more socially equitable world, Voqal is proud to have supported Melange’s work and looks forward to the continued success of the Rural Broadband campaign.