Thursday, February 04, 2016

Supporters of bill to expand rural broadband in Tennessee tell lawmakers to stop listening to AT&T

Advocates for a rural broadband bill in Tennessee that would allow "municipal electric power services to expand their lightning-fast Internet offerings to underserved areas" are demanding that state lawmakers stop being influenced by for-profit telephone and cable giants, Andy Sher reports for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The bill is opposed by AT&T, Comcast and other providers, "who say it's unfair for them to have to compete with government entities like" the Chattanooga Electric Power Board.

Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) told supporters at the state Capitol, "We're talking about AT&T. They're the most powerful lobbying organization in this state by far. Don't fall for the argument that this is a free-market-versus-government battle. It is not. AT&T is the villain here, and so are the other people and cable." Supporters of the bill say "AT&T in Tennessee received $156 million from an Obama administration program aimed at expanding access to broadband," while opposing governmental entities like EPB expanding beyond their normal service areas to offer broadband.

House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) told National Federation of Independent Business-Tennessee members this week that "she doesn't expect the General Assembly will take up the issue this year after Gov. Bill Haslam's economic development officials announced they were initiating a study," Sher writes. "But the bill's House sponsor, Rep. Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland) said he is 'absolutely' pressing forward with the bill. It has been put on notice to be heard in March in House subcommittee." Brooks told Sher, "There was a misconception that the broadband bill was dead. The bill is not dead." (Read more)

No comments: