Thursday, March 17, 2016

Lobbying by AT&T, Comcast being blamed for killing bill to expand broadband to rural Tennessee

Lobbying by Internet giants AT&T and Comcast in Tennessee is being blamed for dealing a fatal blow to legislation that would allow municipal electric power services to expand their lightning-fast Internet offerings to underserved areas, Richard Locker reports for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. The bill will be deferred to next year's bills. State Rep. Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland), who wrote the bill, told Locker, "It's a testament to the power of lobbying against this bill and not listening to our electorate. We have thousands of petitions signed [in support of the bill], and the voice of the people was not heard today."

The House Business and Utilities Subcommittee killed the bill, "even though Brooks had amended it down to a 'pilot' program in which the city-owned Electric Power Board of Chattanooga could expand its nationally acclaimed broadband service outside its Hamilton County service area and into adjoining Bradley County," Locker writes. "Current Tennessee law allows municipal electric utilities to provide Internet service only within the boundaries of their electric service."

"Supporters of rural broadband have tried for seven consecutive years to win approval of some form of legislation allowing local publicly owned electric utilities to expand their high-speed internet services outside of their immediate service areas but have been thwarted annually by lobbying by for-profit companies who have been slow to expand their high-speed telecommunications services into more sparsely populated—and less profitable—areas," Locker writes.

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