Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Expanding Internet access will help create Tennessee jobs | show mE the money!!

In response to recent articles about AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile USA, I would like to express my optimism for the potential that this merger presents in helping to close the digital divide in Madison County. Widespread broadband availability and adoption is critical to development and sustainment of a viable workforce in Madison County.

In helping to build sustained economic growth for Madison County, the Jackson-Madison County African American Chamber of Commerce understands that strengthening our broadband networks is a critical component of economic development. Through our "Follow Me Into Business" program, we work with local business and community leaders to develop our next generation of entrepreneurs. We owe it to these young people to ensure they have access to the tools they need to succeed in life, one of which is access to affordable high-speed broadband.

In his 2011 State of the Union address, President Obama made universal broadband a priority saying, "Within the next five years, we'll make it possible for businesses to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans." Nowhere is the need for universal broadband more acute than in West Tennessee where most of our counties are struggling with double-digit unemployment.

Closing the digital divide not only encourages entrepreneurial development, it creates immediate job opportunities as these next generation networks are developed in our communities. If we are to create these much needed jobs, businesses must be allowed and encouraged to expand. It is our understanding that AT&T spent $19.5 billion last year in capital investment in the U.S. and has pledged to spend $8 billion more during the next seven years to expand its high-speed wireless network. According to a Progressive Policy Institute white paper, AT&T's additional investment is estimated to create 20,000-30,000 new jobs throughout the US.

We urge the FCC and DOJ to expeditiously review and ultimately approve this merger so that we can move forward in closing the digital divide in West Tennessee and create jobs that are desperately needed in our communities. Our economic future and prosperity depend on it.

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