Press Releases

TMEPA Calls on General Assembly to Strike Down Municipal Broadband Restrictions

Press release from the Tennessee Municipal Electric Power Association; February 23, 2015:

Municipal Electric Broadband Service Restricted, Unable to Offer Fastest Service in the Country to Those Who Want It

BRENTWOOD, Tennessee – The Tennessee Municipal Electric Power Association (TMEPA) is seeking to end Tennessee’s constraint on municipal electric broadband so that communities can choose their internet providers and to give more Tennesseans access to the fastest broadband speeds in the country.

TMEPA consists of the state’s 60 municipal systems which serve 2.1 million homes and businesses, or 70% of Tennessee’s electric customers. TMEPA is supporting legislation (SB1134/HB1303) that removes the current limitation on municipal electric broadband providers that restricts broadband service to just its electric service territory. This change in the law would allow municipal electric broadband to expand to more areas where it is needed if those communities want it.

“High-speed broadband is the next utility of the 21st century, and municipal electric broadband should be allowed to be an option for more communities across Tennessee,” said Jeremy Elrod, Director of Government Relations for TMEPA.

Today’s world has made high-speed broadband vital infrastructure that drives local economies, promotes economic development, increases educational opportunities and outcomes, increases regional and global competitiveness, and allows more opportunities for telemedicine, telework, and a better quality of life. Communities with fast internet service become attractive for private investment, and communities without it are unable to provide the modern services that businesses and consumers need and want.

“With the critical need for more and better access to high-speed broadband, a community should have every option available to it as it tries to meet its needs,” said Elrod. “Just as a city decides for itself how to offer electric or water services, it should be able to decide for itself what kind of broadband service it wants.”

Across the state there is a vast difference in available internet speeds. Nearly half of rural Tennesseans still lack access to 25 megabits per second broadband, the FCC’s new broadband standard, and many have little to no internet connectivity at all. Conversely, municipal electric systems have made Tennessee the leader in the nation in per capita availability to gigabit speed broadband with 1 in 10 Tennesseans having access to the fastest speeds in the country. All Tennessee consumers and businesses have access to electric service, but not all have access to the new necessity of high-speed broadband.

Tennessee’s municipal electric broadband providers use fiber optic cable to deliver broadband services. This state of the art connection makes its capable to provide the fastest internet speeds available in the country, 1 gigabit per second. The high capacity of fiber gives additional benefits to consumers and businesses such as freedom from data caps and internet speeds that are the same whether downloading or uploading data.

Because fiber is the fastest, most reliable way, and most secure way to transmit data, many Tennessee municipal electric systems are already installing fiber optic systems for its smart grid capabilities. The result is millions of dollars invested in a smart grid that increases system reliability, reduces outage times, and helps to keep electric rates competitive for everyone. Given the ability to use its fiber system for more purposes, a municipal electric system can develop innovative solutions to meet its community’s broadband needs.

“Our members value one thing above all: serving their communities,” said Mike Vinson, Executive Director of TMEPA. “In today’s world that’s more than just keeping electric service affordable and reliable, it now includes providing other services like high-speed broadband. Tennessee’s municipal electric systems strive to meet their community’s needs.”

Municipal electric systems were established in the early 20th century as a locally controlled and governed means of delivering electricity to those in need of the new necessity of electric power. This “public power model” helped electrify the state and make it attractive because of its affordable and reliable power.

“The 21st century version of electrification is high speed broadband, providing the same benefits in both eras: access to modern utilities for more people across the state decided at a local level,” says Vinson. “Just as local electric systems did then, municipal electric broadband helps to spur job creation, encourages innovation, and is a driver for economic growth, all by bringing modern services to their communities.”


Additional Information:

Current Municipal Electric Broadband Providers
(g) – offers gigabit speeds * – beginning service ** – offer gigabit speeds soon

  • Bristol (g)
  • Chattanooga (g)
  • Clarksville (g)
  • Columbia
  • Erwin *
  • Jackson **
  • Morristown (g)
  • Pulaski
  • Tullahoma (g)

To view testimony on what some of Tennessee’s broadband needs look like, visit the General Assembly’s website to watch the February 10 meeting of Senate Commerce and Labor Committee which held a hearing on the topic.

Press Releases

Blackburn: Obama ‘Tone-deaf’ in Push for FCC to Strike Down State Restrictions on Municipal Broadband

Press release from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. 07; January 14, 2015:

Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) issued the following statement in response to President Obama’s push for broadband policies that trample on states’ rights.

“In Tennessee we have a term to describe people like President Obama — tone-deaf. At a time when Americans think the biggest problem facing our nation today is big government, you would think he’d have gotten the message by now. We don’t need unelected bureaucrats like FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler dictating to our states what they can and can’t do with respect to protecting their limited taxpayer dollars and private enterprises. As a former State Senator in Tennessee, I am offended that President Obama would repeatedly support policies that trample on states’ rights.

“This ‘Washington knows best’ mentality is exactly why Americans put Republicans in control of Congress last November — to stop people like Barack Obama and Tom Wheeler. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate to block any attempt by the FCC to insert themselves into our states’ sovereign economic and fiscal affairs. These are decisions that should be left up to Congress with participation from the American people, not sent down on high from unaccountable federal bureaucrats looking down on us from their ivory tower.”

Press Releases

Tech Group: Hidden TN Subsidies Threaten Competition, Broadband Development

Press Release from Citizens for a Digital Future, March 9, 2011:

White Paper Finds Further Telecom Reform is Needed in Tennessee Current System Could Be Hindering Investment

(Nashville, Tennessee) – Yesterday, Hance Haney, Director and Senior Fellow of the Technology & Democracy Project at the Discovery Institute, released a white paper that looks at hidden subsidies in the current telecommunications structure in Tennessee. The report, “Further Telecom Reform Needed in Tennessee: Hidden Subsidies Threaten Competition and Broadband,” analyzes the issue and what it can mean for broadband growth and Tennessee consumers. The report was realeased at an event hosted by Citizens for a Digital Future (CDF) and co-hosted with the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

“Public policies like reforming access fees systems can lead to further innovation in technology and job growth,” said John Watson, CDF Chairman. “At a time when broadband is becoming a necessity for economic growth, it is more important now than ever to be creating environments where broadband investment is encouraged and can thrive.”

The paper also examines the effect that access charges have on broadband availability and notes that current Tennessee telecom laws are slowing the flow of private investment dollars that can benefit the state’s rural and low-income businesses and communities.

“At the end of the day the question is whether or not Tennessee consumers want to continue subsidizing outdated voice only telephone service instead of newer technologies like broadband which can provide voice, video, and data service at a lower cost,” said Haney. “The bottom line is that current intrastate access charges divert private investment to traditional voice service instead of broadband technologies that economic growth increasingly depends on.”

Bradley Jackson, Vice President for Government Affairs, of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry said, “The Chamber is pleased to be a part of this discussion about policies that will help attract investment, benefit consumers and help business grow here in Tennessee and we will continue promoting ideas and policies that make a real impact on economic development in the state.”

The full paper can be viewed at

About Citizens for a Digital Future

Citizens for a Digital Future is a coalition of non-profit organizations and industry members that recognizes that adoption of and access to broadband technology — and its enhancements — has become increasingly critical to the environment, education, economic development and health care, among others. Its members support and advance public policies that encourage transparency, broad deployment and robust enhancement of broadband and digital technologies.