Residents in rural Chattanooga almost had 10 Gbps internet until the State stepped in

Cal Jeffrey

TS Evangelist
Staff member

In most parts of the country, choices for broadband internet is pretty limited. Typically consumers have the local cable company (usually Charter or Comcast), AT&T U-verse, or one of the slower dish networks. Occasionally you can happen across a city that has its own broadband service, and that is the case in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Chattanooga has its own fiber optic infrastructure and the company that provides service through the fiber, EPB, offers 100 Mbps, 1Gbps, and 10Gbps plans for $58, $70, and $300 respectively. As a comparison, Comcast Xfinity offers customers 10-250 Mbps plans in most areas for rates starting at $30 and going as high as $90. Comcast’s 100 Mbps service is about the same price as EPB’s, but for the $70 you would pay for Chattanooga’s one gig line, you could only get 200 Mbps from Xfinity.

So, Chattanooga has very fast broadband at competitive prices, but according to Motherboard, the rural areas on the outskirts are stuck with satellite, dial-up, or no internet service at all. Chattanooga was prepared to rectify this situation by expanding and building its fiber optic lines into outlying areas.

Chattanooga's EPB is government owned, but the company is fully self-sufficient. It was willing to bring high-speed internet to the neighboring countryside at no cost to the taxpayer. However, the Tennessee legislature passed a law a few years ago that makes it illegal for EPB to expand into the surrounding areas. The telecom industries lobbied for the law, and Chattanooga spent years trying to get it overturned.

Many attempts were made to get the law repealed, including petitioning the FCC before Tennessee lawmakers finally introduced a bill that would allow EPB to expand. Rural Chattanooga residents were finally going to get decent internet coverage.

However, in a move that Senator Janice Bowling describes as “crony capitalism,” the legislators turned down the bill and enacted the "Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act of 2017” instead. The TBAA will give $45 million in grants and tax breaks to companies like Comcast and AT&T to build inferior cable infrastructure or even worse, DSL to rural areas.

To put it another way: Chattanooga taxpayers will first pay $45 million over the next three years to large corporations that will then turn around and charge them for inferior internet services, as opposed to getting faster internet from EPB for about the same subscription price, but without having to pay to build the infrastructure.

“Tennessee will literally be paying AT&T to provide a service 1000 times slower than what Chattanooga could provide without subsidies,” said Christopher Mitchell of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Think about how many internet providers that you have in your area. Do you think your lack of options is by accident?

Motherboard reports that the Tennessee legislature “has repeatedly bent over backwards for large ISPs.”

While this may seem to be a localized problem for Chattanooga, it can be applied across the country. Think about how many internet providers that you have in your area. Do you think your lack of options is by accident?

As far as Senator Bowling is concerned, “What we have right now is not the free market, it's regulations protecting giant corporations, which is the exact definition of crony capitalism.”

Internet providers have long held customers between a rock and a hard place. Most of the time they overcharge for unreliable service with bloated bundles and poor customer service. They can get away with this not only because they have limited competition, but because lawmakers have their backs with restrictive regulatory demands.

By all appearances, it will get worse before it gets better. More and more people are dumping providers' internet/TV bundles for on-demand streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and the upcoming YouTube TV. Look for big broadband providers to gouge consumers to make up for the losses.

Top image by Softnetics, Body image by Vanderbilt University

Permalink to story.

 

JudasSheep

TS Booster
It isn't just Tennessee, but all over the US. All these companies get in the pockets of our law makers and screw us. I am neither Dem or Rep, but I think we can all agree there is too much corruption at every level. The answer isn't socialism, communism or what have you. The answer is to cut out the cancer and let the country heal. Wake up fellow Americans! Dump your party politics and replace your senators with people who give a damn about the country and no their wallet.

Now the tech talk.... The US is sadly behind in the bandwidth category. We are one of the most advanced nations in the world and our people can't even get decent connections. Mind you I understand we are very spread out, but it doesn't help when you have the political BS stated above.
 

Cal Jeffrey

TS Evangelist
Staff member
It isn't just Tennessee, but all over the US. All these companies get in the pockets of our law makers and screw us. I am neither Dem or Rep, but I think we can all agree there is too much corruption at every level. The answer isn't socialism, communism or what have you. The answer is to cut out the cancer and let the country heal. Wake up fellow Americans! Dump your party politics and replace your senators with people who give a damn about the country and no their wallet.

Now the tech talk.... The US is sadly behind in the bandwidth category. We are one of the most advanced nations in the world and our people can't even get decent connections. Mind you I understand we are very spread out, but it doesn't help when you have the political BS stated above.
Well said.
 

psycros

TS Evangelist
I am so glad to finally see an article that focuses on the absurdity of the country that invented the Internet being the laughing stock of the free world when it comes to telecom. AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and the other "usual suspects" are raping the consumer while their friends in the FCC and Congress pocket the graft. Of course its even worse in other industries where the profits are many times greater - big pharma and big agriculture are particularly culpable. We eat and drink literal poison as the health of our population steadily deteriorates, all while jobs migrate overseas. The schools dumb us all down and the media serves up fake controversy to distract us from just how completely we're being screwed over. And the multi-billionaires grow ever wealthier as Rome burns.
 

Cycloid Torus

Stone age computing - click on the rock below..
Is there any hope for a 'leapfrog' technology which can bypass all of this wire and pole stuff and deliver 50-60 Mbps?
 

J spot

TS Maniac
This is for a lack of a better term, criminal. The victims being the tax payers.

A mugger may pull a gun on you, take your money, and the effect from that is loud and in your face. It will be in your head for days to come, and possibly affect you for the rest of your life.

But this is in a sense a mugging, but it's done in a way that won't affect the victims in a loud and in your face kind of way.

They are taking $45,000,000 from taxes they paid, to give to a powerful corporation, so that this corporation can charge them more.

Just like the mugger literally took money from you, these politicians and corporations are literally taking money from these people, only difference it's that it's in less in your face, forgetful way.

Both scenarios are criminal, and equal.
 

petert

TS Evangelist
USA the land of the free? More like the land of a free corporations ...

The industry can lobby the government to pull tricks like these - how about the consumers? Are they sleeping and dreaming the American dream?
 
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quisp65

TS Rookie
Broadband stories are always written so black and white. It's a shame the public doesn't demand both sides of the story.

The cable co & telco's may have lobbied but these laws protect the city residents of Chattanooga. Fiber to rural areas is expensive and this buildup would have been financed on the backs of city resident's power & internet rates.
 

psycros

TS Evangelist
Broadband stories are always written so black and white. It's a shame the public doesn't demand both sides of the story.

The cable co & telco's may have lobbied but these laws protect the city residents of Chattanooga. Fiber to rural areas is expensive and this buildup would have been financed on the backs of city resident's power & internet rates.
"Chattanooga's EPB is government owned, but the company is fully self-sufficient. It was willing to bring high-speed internet to the neighboring countryside at no cost to the taxpayer."

The idea that telcos have any interest in "protecting" consumers almost makes me dismiss your comment out of hand. Its also far more likely that the federal government paid for a lot of that municipal fiber rollout. However, these sorts of semi-public companies must eventually become self-sufficient or fail - the landscape is littered with the wreckage of ones that didn't. At first glance, the lowest speeds on EPB are actually a little more expensive than you would pay on cable. However, I suspect that Comcast forces you to buy at least basic cable in order to have their Internet service, particularly if its fiber. Or perhaps Chatanoogans are so fed up with Comcast that their willing to pay a premium to avoid dealing with Comcast. In any case it seems like the locals are happy to get a different (and faster) service. The number of "cord-cutters" - a misnomer in my book - are growing by leaps and bounds. For the price of Comcast's 250mbps connection you could get 1GB from EPB and a bunch of streaming services. The real question for me, however, is whether or not EPB would be selling your Internet history and personal data the same way Comcast does.
 

petert

TS Evangelist
Broadband stories are always written so black and white. It's a shame the public doesn't demand both sides of the story.

The cable co & telco's may have lobbied but these laws protect the city residents of Chattanooga. Fiber to rural areas is expensive and this buildup would have been financed on the backs of city resident's power & internet rates.
Isn't it enough that we draw borders between the countries so we can start wars or force them into buying our overpriced crap - now we draw borders between a city and its surroundings. I can only hope your fellow countrymen aren't as narrow minded as you mate ...
 
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petert

TS Evangelist
This is for a lack of a better term, criminal. The victims being the tax payers.

A mugger may pull a gun on you, take your money, and the effect from that is loud and in your face. It will be in your head for days to come, and possibly affect you for the rest of your life.

But this is in a sense a mugging, but it's done in a way that won't affect the victims in a loud and in your face kind of way.

They are taking $45,000,000 from taxes they paid, to give to a powerful corporation, so that this corporation can charge them more.

Just like the mugger literally took money from you, these politicians and corporations are literally taking money from these people, only difference it's that it's in less in your face, forgetful way.

Both scenarios are criminal, and equal.
Well, the tax payers better start doing something ... I can tell the current situation is the result of tax payers and voters bending over in front of corporations for decades now.
 

roberthi

TS Addict
It isn't just Tennessee, but all over the US. All these companies get in the pockets of our law makers and screw us. I am neither Dem or Rep, but I think we can all agree there is too much corruption at every level. The answer isn't socialism, communism or what have you. The answer is to cut out the cancer and let the country heal. Wake up fellow Americans! Dump your party politics and replace your senators with people who give a damn about the country and no their wallet.

Now the tech talk.... The US is sadly behind in the bandwidth category. We are one of the most advanced nations in the world and our people can't even get decent connections. Mind you I understand we are very spread out, but it doesn't help when you have the political BS stated above.
Yes, but look at the bright side. At least if there is a cyber attack, we'll get hit far slower than anyone else.
 
P

Pepe Bonos

The cable Companies are a "Monopoly!" supposedly Ilegal in our country. We have to pay 2X more than the Europeans, for half the bandwidth and poor service. Charter $65 Internet only, for 60 Mbit/s in Oregon "RIP OFF"!
 

Sum Guy

TS Booster
Welcome to Tennessee! Where the crooked politicians outnumber the law abiding citizens 2:1
You the the USA. Nowhere in america is safe from corporate greed. The worst part is we pay these isps twice. Once via our taxpayer dollars for all this bs and again on our bill which is also taxed.
 
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roberthi

TS Addict
Broadband stories are always written so black and white. It's a shame the public doesn't demand both sides of the story.

The cable co & telco's may have lobbied but these laws protect the city residents of Chattanooga. Fiber to rural areas is expensive and this buildup would have been financed on the backs of city resident's power & internet rates.
Which is still their prerogative and the long term benefit to cost ratio will likely pan out for them. For instance, I know someone who just upgraded to fiber, because they had decaying copper lines. They went from like 25Mbps to 300 or something like that. Their cost is like $100 per mo. I'm about to do the same in a different town, and through a different, smaller and lesser-known company, but my cost is less than hers and I'm getting 1000Mbps up/down. This is because my town contracted to have this company lease the town's dark fiber and manage it's distribution and customer service. The town already paid for the fiber for their own use, so now it's just making an investment to recover cost and generate both revenue for the town and make it's citizens a lot happier. Right now, I'm sitting on a whopping...wait for it...8Mbps down / 1Mbps up through CenturyLink. My only other option is Charter (TWC), but the options aren't a ton better there, either. This smaller company I mentioned is allowing everyone here to win, except the bigger companies that have proven over time they could care less about helping out their customers or the town.
 
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