Chattanooga, Tennessee has the fastest and cheapest public-owned internet in the country. So Republicans in the Tennessee State Capitol decided to penalize them for it to the tune of $45 million.
The Tennessee House of Representatives just passed the “Tennessee Broadband and Accessibility Act” with a 93-4 vote, and Governor Haslam is expected to sign it.
On the surface it sounds like a bill intended to help a lot of people finally get access to high speed internet. But in actuality, it is a $45 million welfare check for telcom giants Comcast and AT&T.
In 2009 Chattanooga used federal grant money to create a “smart grid” to deliver power and blazing fast, fiber optic broadband to everyone in the city after companies such as Comcast refused to expand their fiber optic network into the area because of the cost.
So Chattanooga did it themselves, and their digital infrastructure is now the envy of America.
Of course, Comcast and AT&T spent years suing the city stating that a federal subsidy to build a fiber optic grid was illegal.
“It’s an example of the inappropriate position of government competing with the private sector.”
But eight years later, Comcast and AT&T are thrilled to be the ones receiving a subsidy to provide inferior service to communities just outside of the Chattanooga smart grid because the “Tennessee Broadband and Accessibility Act” bans the expansion of their smart grid beyond the city limits.
Now, instead of paying less than $50 a month for access to Chattanooga’s gigabit fiber optic network, residents in surrounding areas will have to wait years for inferior corporate-controlled internet to be expanded to their homes by Comcast and AT&T at a much higher price, with no options or competition.
But that price doesn’t include the $45 million in taxpayer dollars that state legislators just gave away to make it happen.
Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance best summed up the issue:
“Tennessee taxpayers may subsidize AT&T to build DSL service to Chattanooga’s neighbors rather than letting [EPB] expand its fiber to neighbors at no cost to taxpayers. Tennessee will literally be paying AT&T to provide a service 1000 times slower than what Chattanooga could provide without subsidies.”
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