Haslam’s broadband bill draws some legislator criticism

Some legislators are not sold on Gov. Bill Haslam’s plan to provide government subsidies to private telecommunications companies that expand broadband service into rural areas and authorizes non-profit electric cooperatives to offer broadband services, reports the Times-Free Press.

But the governor’s bill does not let municipal electric systems get into the broadband business outside their service areas.  Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board (EPB) has been pushing to do so for years. The bill also would not allow the electric cooperatives to handle money-making cable TV service on their broadband.

Asked why he didn’t include EPB and other municipal electric services, Haslam said, “You have a situation where we’d much rather have private providers rather than government-subsidized entities have the first crack at getting that done.”

… At first blush, state Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, whose district includes underserved areas, wasn’t happy.

“What I wanted is a free and open ability for any elected board of any co-op to make its own decisions what to do,” Carter added. “And it could contract with anyone, including the municipals, private enterprise — anyone — to do that.”

… State Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, 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 said. ” I am amazed that some of the giant, investor-owned telecoms have been able to confuse the conversation by trying to make it about what is fair for the provider, instead of focusing on what is right for the consumer.”

… Investor-owned telephone companies such as AT&T and private cable TV companies such as Comcast and Charter have long objected to having to compete with government entities such as EPB, which they contend have an unfair advantage by not paying income taxes and enjoying government-supported borrowing abilities.

But Bowling said she thinks “it is disingenuous to say you don’t want municipal utilities, which they equate with ‘big government,’ to compete with the private sector when you are giving another $45 million of taxpayer money to these private businesses.

2 Responses to Haslam’s broadband bill draws some legislator criticism

  • June Bill landrum says:

    We need bb in rural areas. Probably the on line classes would increase. As it is very slow to complete daily assignments at the present time.

  • Mickie Davis says:

    Twin Lakes Telephone Cooperative is just about the worst in the state. Instead of spending money to increase availability of broadband to its service area or to increase speeds, it spent Millions to develop and offer wired Television Cable service. What happened to the 16.1 million in grant and 16.1 million in loans it received with the Obama grants?
    Whoever that brilliant mind was needs to be kicked off the board and banned for life. Any village idiot could see that cable TV was the dying dinosaur years ago…especially someone who is supposed to be knowledgeable in that area.
    So, here we are with 4mb DSL max (at least we have something) and no more phone lines available for our entire area on Morrison Creek Road in Jackson County. If you move here…sorry, no telephone or dsl for you! No more wires available.
    And now the State wants to give out more welfare money to these coops so they can make more bad business decisions. UGH!
    NO MORE WELFARE MONEY TO THESE CO-OPS!!! They couldn’t manage themselves out of a paper bag.

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