Chattanooga Mayor Says City's Gigabit Network (Which Comcast Tried To Kill) To Thank For City's Revival
from the get-the-hell-out-of-the-way dept
While hardline free marketeers and incumbent ISPs often try to paint city-owned broadband networks as the pinnacle of government-sponsored disaster, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke this week credited the city utility’s gigabit broadband service as a major contributing factor for the city’s re-invention. The Chattanooga Electric Power Board (EPB) is a city-owned utility that offers broadband speeds up to 10 Gbps to locals; a recent Consumer Reports survey noting that outside of Google Fiber, EPB has the only truly positive consumer satisfaction ratings among the 30 national ISPs ranked by the magazine:
“The results were ugly for value, too, with 28 of the 30 TV service providers earning our lowest score. The two exceptions?municipal broadband company EPB Fiber Optics-Chattanooga and Google Fiber?each earned high scores from the survey respondents. Both services offer super-fast 1-gigabit-per-second (Gbps) speeds. EPB Fiber Optics-Chattanooga ranked highest in the survey for overall satisfaction, edging out Google Fiber and cable company Armstrong.”
In areas where the private market has failed, public or public/private partnerships have proven to be an effective way (if designed and funded properly) in shoring up coverage gaps for what has become an essential utility. Berke this week stated that by doing what local incumbent broadband providers refused to (aka give a damn), the city has been able to attract startups, lower the city’s unemployment rate, and change the city’s reputation for the better. And while not all of that is solely thanks to broadband, Berke makes it very clear that EPB was a huge part of it:
“It changed our conceptions of who we are and what is possible,? Berke said. ?Before we had never thought of ourselves as a technology city.”…Downtown has doubled its residents and landlords often advertise gigabit speeds that are included in monthly rents.
?It?s an explosion of growth in our technology sector,? he said. ?That has sparked not only this (downtown) living but restaurants and bars and music and the quality of life that truly makes a city interesting, cool, hip, vibrant and energetic.”
But if you’ve been playing along at home, regional incumbents like AT&T and Comcast almost kept EPB’s network from ever being built. In 2008 Comcast unsuccessfully sued EPB to prevent the city’s plan from taking root. AT&T and Comcast are also behind a state law preventing EPB from expanding, one of nineteen such laws lobbied for by incumbent ISPs to maintain the apathetic broadband status quo.
We’ve noted how state leaders (like Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, a former AT&T executive) have rushed to the defense of the state’s broadband duopoly and their protectionist law. The pretense usually involves these politicians insisting they’re just trying to protect taxpayers from themselves, ignoring the fact that letting AT&T and Comcast lawyers literally writing bad state telecom law has resulted in Tennessee being one of the least connected states in the nation.
Tennessee’s fealty to regional duopolists recently bubbled over when EPB successfully petitioned the FCC to intervene on their behalf. The FCC is currently in court trying to argue that two such laws — in both Tennessee and North Carolina — run in stark contrast to the FCC’s stated mission of ensuring even and timely broadband deployment. The FCC hopes that the case sets a legal precedent, resulting in the elimination of similar laws (many of which ban or hinder even public/private partnerships like Google Fiber) falling like dominoes.
But here too loyal Tennessee protectors of broadband sector dysfunction like Marsha Blackburn have tried to argue the FCC is violating state law — by telling the state which giant corporations can or can’t buy protectionist legislation. It’s all part of a massive joke that has repeated itself in state after state, where companies like AT&T and Comcast have such a stranglehold over the legislative process, they’ve effectively codified shitty, uncompetitive broadband into law.