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Fastest Internet in the U.S., but Thousands of Families Fight for Access

This article was originally published on wrcbtv.com.


One East Tennessee mom is fighting to have equal access online. 

Imagine not being able to access your email, Facebook, Twitter or weather app when there's a severe thunderstorm or tornado warning that you need to know about. Thousands of families are fighting to keep up in an internet savvy world. They're falling behind and falling apart living a simple life, that isn't simple at all.

In this quiet rural neighborhood in southwest Bradley County, the Williams family is fighting to stay connected.

" It's like we're living in the 1800s," said Debby Williams. "Internet today is as important as electricity , water, it's a utility."

Debby Williams spends 5-10 hours a week packing up the kids to go to their school library, where all three can use the internet to do their homework. For 8 years she's tried to get internet and cable at home.

" They promised every time I would go to Charter, they would say we're coming out soon and I'm not the only one, I'm speaking out but there are thousands of families in Tennessee who are in the same boat I'm in," said Williams. 

Dad of 3, Kevin Hallock is fighting too. 

" Multiple times we've tried to get Charter to come to our house and they basically tell us it's not cost effective," said Hallock. 

He says it would cost at least $14,000 dollars to have lines installed. Its a bill he can't afford, so his daughter studies online at his office sometimes late at night.

" There are houses that have fiber optic internet service some of the fastest internet in the country and yet just a tenth of a mile down the road we're sitting here with absolutely nothing," said Hallock. 

The Scenic City is known world wide for having some of the fastest internet in the country, EPB is willing to step in.

"We're here and ready, willing to serve our neighbors," said John Pless, EPB Spokesperson. 

State law prohibits EPB from offering internet to anyone outside of it's elected service area. Private companies say laws are needed to protect against unfair government competition. 

Now Senate Bill 1134/ House Bill 1303 aim to lift those boundaries. The Williams family is hoping for a solution soon.  

"Reporter: "What are you afraid of? "That we won't get a decent education," said 14-year-old Jason Williams. 

"Maybe two days a week I eat dinner with the family," said 16-year-old Kaitlyn Williams. 

In the meantime, the computer is only good for typing and in the event of severe storms, the Williams depend on their cell phones. 

"I have two out of 5 bars and it's still searching," said Williams. " I don't dare open a story, that takes too long,  I just scan here and make sure I need to know what I need to know." Reporter: "So you rely on headlines?"  Williams, " I do."

Ready to rely on more than just headlines.

"Dear State Lawmakers , I'm ten and my name is Ashlyn."

To 10-year-old Ashlyn, it's not about politics or bottom lines.

"Not having internet is a big problem and this is why, there are many programs on the internet i cannot do and if i do get on these learning programs my mom has to take me somewhere else to get get internet."

It's about keeping up in a world where internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.

"We do have a jet pack but it's expensive, slow and very hard to use, please let EPB come out to my house, love Ashlyn."

Channel 3 reached out to Charter Communications several times and the Director of Regional communications has declined to comment at this time. 

The Broadband bill is not in committee yet, it has been sent to local government subcommittee, the bill will be put on notice in March. 

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development is doing a broadband research study to measure who has broadband internet access, if they are using it and how they are using it. They ask that every Tennessean participate but ironically that survey is online.

To find out more information about the Broadband bill click here

To follow the bill's progress click here.