Press Release from the Beacon Center of Tennessee, Dec. 14, 2012:
NASHVILLE – The Beacon Center of Tennessee today announced that its annual Lump of Coal Award goes to the Chattanooga Electric Power Board (EPB) as Tennessee’s biggest Grinch in 2012.
The Beacon Center awards this dubious distinction annually to the person or group in Tennessee who, more than any other during the past year, bah-humbugged the principles of liberty and limited government.
The 2012 Lump of Coal Award was chosen directly by Tennesseans in an online poll. Respondents chose from a list of finalists selected by Beacon Center staff. Although nearly twice as many votes were cast than in Beacon’s 2011 inaugural poll, the Chattanooga public utility bested Nashville Mayor Karl Dean by just 16 votes.
EPB was once known for offering basic electrical service to the city’s residents. Company CEO Harold DePriest, however, expanded the public utility into one that also offers telephone, cable TV, and high-speed broadband Internet to compete against traditional private providers such as Comcast and AT&T. EPB is now the largest municipal utility in the nation to offer telecommunications services, and it has reached that point at an enormous taxpayer and ratepayer expense.
The 2012 Lump of Coal Award goes to EPB for snatching $100 million in federal stimulus funds and another $160 million in subsidies from its electricity customers to backstop its foray into the Internet provider industry.
“Taxpayers and ratepayers are bearing the risk of EPB’s attempts to monopolize the Internet business in the Chattanooga area,” said Beacon CEO Justin Owen. “The public utility has squandered millions competing with the private sector in its quest to rule the Internet market throughout southeast Tennessee.”
The Beacon Center of Tennessee is an independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan organization committed to providing free market solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee. The Center’s mission is to change lives through public policy by advancing the principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government.