AT&T, cable lobbying drive Chattanooga's EPB to shelve network expansion bill

EPB, the Chattanooga, Tenn.-based service provider known for its 1 Gbps service, and its supporters have decided to put on mothballs a new bill that would enable municipal broadband operators to expand outside of their service areas.

If the "Broadband Infrastructure for Regional Economic Development Act of 2011" bill had gone through, municipal-run broadband providers like EPB would have been able to extend service up to 30 miles outside their service areas. One of EPB's motivating factors to have the bill was to bring service to Bradley County, where is building a second distribution center.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, the bill's main sponsor, moved to take the bill "off notice" following a strong lobbying effort by both AT&T (NYSE: T) and their sometimes necessary ally, the cable industry.

Harold DePriest, EPB President and CEO, said that they "would like to see the bill pass, but I think Gerald was dealing with the reality of the difficulty of moving the bill through the committee at this point in time," he said Friday, adding that "We will be back."

As seen in other states, municipal broadband in Tennessee has been a divisive issue.

While Depriest said they have seen greater job creation since EPB's Fiber to the X network was built, critics like Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, said municipal cable providers "are losing tremendous amounts of money" that is "coming out of the taxpayers' pocket."

For more:
- Times Free Press has this article

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