Tennessee Makes It Clear Protecting AT&T And Comcast From Broadband Competition Is Its Top Priority

from the protectionism-ahoy dept

We've noted a few times that Tennessee is one of numerous states that have literally let incumbent ISPs like AT&T and Comcast write state telecom law. Most notably, around 20 states have now blocked towns and cities from building their own broadband networks -- or striking public/private partnerships -- even in cases where the market has clearly failed. It's protectionism pure and simple, and when the FCC voted last year to try and gut these laws in Tennessee and North Carolina, ISP allies in Congress were quick to assail the FCC for "violating states rights" (to let incumbent ISPs dictate all telecom policy, apparently).

Tennessee's law prevents a popular Chattanooga-based utility-run ISP, EPB, from expanding its up to 10 Gbps offerings. Tennessee Rep. Kevin Brooks recently tried to pass a bill that would have dismantled the state's restriction, but his effort ran face-first into a lobbying wall constructed by companies like AT&T and Comcast. He then recently tried to strip down the measure so it simply let EPB expand near its headquarters and to one neighboring county, but that provision was also shot down 5-3, with one of the nay votes being that of Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, a former AT&T executive.

Needless to say, Brooks isn't particularly impressed with state lawmakers who continue to let AT&T and Comcast dictate state telecom policy while the state becomes one of the least connected in the nation thanks to cronyism:
"Residents and business people alike in northern Hamilton and portions of Bradley counties say they either have no service, lousy service or wireless service that makes it very expensive to upload and download documents for work and school. Asked who was lobbying against the bill, Brooks said, "the list of who was not would be shorter. I heard they hired 27 lawyers to fight."

...Brooks, R-Cleveland, and other proponents later blasted powerful investor-owned telecommunication providers such as AT&T and Comcast for the loss. And conceding defeat this year, they vowed to return in 2017. "It's a testament to the power of lobbying against this bill and not listening to our electorate...the voice of the people today was not heard. And that's unfortunate."
Incumbent ISPs like AT&T and Comcast, meanwhile, continue to insist that nothing is wrong with the scattered, expensive broadband service they're currently providing the state. And, as we've seen in other states like Missouri, they continue to frame the issue as a partisan one to intentionally sow partisan division, distracting locals from what's actually happening. But again, there's bi-partisan support for leaving the right to improve local infrastructure in the hands of local voters, and not incumbent providers with a vested interest in keeping prices high and mediocrity the norm. And towns and cities wouldn't be exploring getting into the broadband business if they were genuinely satisfied with the current offerings.

For a while broadband efforts from the likes of Google Fiber and Tucows had been shining a spotlight on the need for public/private partnerships to fill in the broadband coverage gaps incumbents refuse to address. But recent votes in Missouri and Tennessee show that old telecom habits (like letting ISPs write awful protectionist law in exchange for campaign contributions) die hard.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2016 @ 12:58pm

    and while those sitting on the committees that give the 'Yea' or 'Nea' are allowed to be funded in their political careers by these incumbents, nothing will ever change! those people concerned turn their backs on the very people they are supposed to represent, as long as the funding 'keeps on coming'!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 23 Mar 2016 @ 1:04pm

    Ok. So the party of "Free Markets" doesn't like it when the market is free that a municipality can compete. So they pass laws that prevent competition thus making the "Free Market" not free.

    "That's some catch, that Catch-22!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2016 @ 1:54pm

      Re:

      Free Markets were gone before any of us were born. Regulation pretty much ensures the destruction of a free market. What constantly bothers me is the fact that people think regulation is somehow less evil than letting a company compete in a free market.

      Often times those companies complain about regulation, but in truth they leverage that regulation (lobby) more often than not to raise the barrier of entry to prevent new competition from even forming to begin with. You will find an all too willing Politician ready to sell out their voters for some quick cash!

      Neither Party is the Party of free markets, its just that the right tends to lie less about letting businesses run rampant compared to the left. The left whom constantly play the Class Warfare card upon an ignorant electorate... a war they NEVER intend to fight because they are rich as fuck themselves.

      Someone should let those poor unfortunate voters know they are being screwed...

      Class Warfare, where only the Poor can perform it the same way that only a White person is a Racist.

      There is no such thing as Businesses/Rich waging class warfare against the poor, just like there is no such thing as a black or brown racist.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2016 @ 1:00am

        Re: Re:

        That's quite the spin. You should be writing for Limbaugh or O'Reilly.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 24 Mar 2016 @ 7:46am

        Re: Re:

        Regulation pretty much ensures the destruction of a free market.

        Without regulation, most markets tend toward oligopoly or monopoly. Regulation is vital to maintaining a free market.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2016 @ 10:17am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Not only that but consider that the service requires running a physical cable to the residence. you don't want people just attaching a wire to a post without regard for safety and the rights of others to not have their own service disrupted.

          Some regulation is needed however the laws as they are in place right now in Tennessee go far beyond that minimum and into industry protectionism.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      R.H. (profile), 24 Mar 2016 @ 7:45am

      Re:

      You do realize that the guy trying to pass the bill to remove the restrictions is a Republican, right? Like Karl said in the article, this isn't a partisan issue even though various lawmakers are trying to frame it as such.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Mar 2016 @ 1:33pm

    Why don't the towns just protest by installing their own broadband anyway. Ignore the whines of the incumbent ISPs and take back control of their own town. The state can go suck it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kronomex, 23 Mar 2016 @ 2:33pm

    As long as there are corrupt (although they don't see themselves that way) politicians at local, state and federal levels willing to take brown envelopes there will never be any changes for the better.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2016 @ 12:58am

    That's because Tennessee is run by the good 'ole boys club of the south. If they can't profit then no one can benefit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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