Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam doesn’t want the public’s money to pay for publicly owned Internet infrastructure. He has no problem, however, writing a $45 million check backed by taxpayers and payable to the likes of AT&T in Tennessee.
"A Little Song, A Little Dance, A Little Seltzer Down Your Pants"
On Wednesday, Haslam introduced the “Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act,” another state sponsored handout to the national Internet Service Providers who have made countless broken promises to expand to rural areas. The bill contains some provisions dressed up to look like measures that make big strides for the state, and will be helpful, but it's not ground breaking.
The bill lifts existing state restrictions on electric cooperatives that may wish to offer retail Internet access to members. The state restrictions on co-ops are dubious anyway and could be challenged under federal law. For the state’s electric cooperatives that reach all over the rural areas, the bill is welcome, but communities near Chattanooga’s EPB gets the short end of the stick.
EPB, Chattanooga’s Municipal Electric Utility, has advocated for several years to expand beyond their service territory. Neighboring communities, such as Bradley and Polk Counties, need better connectivity because the national providers don’t consider their regions a good investment. Nevertheless, state law prohibits EPB from expanding to them and this legislation won't change that.
"Don't Confuse The Conversation"
State Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, where the local municipal network has jump started economic development and improved the quality of life, pointed out the problem in Haslam’s shell game legislation:
Bowling said the measure only goes halfway in removing regulatory limits that she said now limit fiber optic service in much of Tennessee "and keeps too many rural citizens from participating in the 21st century digital economy."
"I'm certainly glad that electric co-ops will be able to retail fiber services under this measure and I think that will be significant," she...