Municipal Broadband Expansion Bill Delayed Until 2016

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; April 1, 2015:

(NASHVILLE, Tenn.), April 1, 2015 — Advocates for broadband expansion in Tennessee announced that efforts to extend community-based fiber optic networks are being placed on hold for now because there is not enough support among state lawmakers to change a state regulation that prevents the expansion of municipal fiber optic systems.  According to Tennessee State Senator Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma), who sponsored legislation that would allow municipal utilities to provide fiber optic services beyond their current service area, she put the measure on hold.  She trusts this will make it easier to continue the process next legislative session.

“Thanks to a growing number of Tennesseans, who are contacting their representatives to communicate their critical need for broadband services, we made more progress this legislative session than ever before,” Senator Bowling said. “Next year, I hope the needs of the hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans with little or no broadband service will prevail. The vested interests of the legacy carriers who refuse to serve them while lobbying to prevent community-based providers from meeting the needs of the people in our state must be more clearly confirmed.”

Senator Bowling also emphasized the need for concerned citizens to get involved. “I invite every Tennessean who is passionate about broadband to make your views known to your state representatives,” Senator Bowling said. “If your educational opportunities, your job prospects, your business, your access to telemedicine, your ability to buy or sell real estate or other basic needs are impaired, lawmakers in Nashville need to hear from you. Access to high speed broad band is to the 21st Century, what access to electricity was to the 20th Century. It is essential.”

In addition, Senator Bowling said removing Tennessee’s territorial restrictions reinforces free-market competition. “Currently, most Tennesseans have no choice when it comes to broadband,” said Senator Bowling. “The lucky ones have one broadband provider and many have no choice for broadband services at all. The Tennessee Fiber Optic Communities are proving competition is good both for customers and the competitive businesses themselves. I want to see that kind of competition spread across the state.”

Harold DePriest, president and CEO of EPB and chair of the Tennessee Fiber Optic Communities, pointed to the value of giving local elected leaders the freedom and responsibility to make infrastructure decisions for the betterment of the communities they serve. “State officials would never tell city or county leaders that they couldn’t build roads for local residents and businesses,” DePriest said. “In the 21st Century, broadband infrastructure is just as critical as good roadways to the economic development and quality of life of a community. Allowing investor-driven entities headquartered in other states to pick which Tennessee communities win and which lose when it comes to this critical infrastructure undermines the fundamental principle of local control.”