Comcast, AT&T thwart municipal broadband expansion effort in Tennessee

Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and AT&T's (NYSE: T) lobbying efforts to block a municipal broadband bill that would let Chattanooga, Tenn.-based EPB expand into two nearby counties paid off as the measure failed to pass following a 5-3 vote in the state legislature.

Led by Tennessee Rep. Kevin Brooks (R-Cleveland), the expansion could not win over enough of the state's lawmakers.

Brooks, according to a article, said that AT&T and Comcast had a lot of influence on killing the proposal.

"It's a testament to the power of lobbying against this bill and not listening to our electorate," Brooks said.

Brooks added that "the voice of the people today was not heard. And that's unfortunate."

The lawmaker's failed proposal happened just as the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals gets ready to hear oral arguments Thursday in the state of Tennessee's appeal of the FCC's decision to overturn laws in Tennessee and South Carolina barring service providers like EPB from expanding outside of their existing serving area.

In March 2015, the FCC voted 3-2 along party lines to overturn laws it said have interfered with broadband expansions.

Later, the state of Tennessee filed a suit arguing that the FCC can't overturn laws that limit municipal broadband growth in its state.

Lawyers representing the state said in a brief filed in a federal appeals court that states have an "inviolable right to self-governance," meaning that a state can carry out powers to its cities and towns however it wants.

AT&T, Comcast and other incumbents claim that it's unfair to have to compete with government-owned entities like EPB.

EPB, which was a pioneer in the 1 Gbps FTTH market segment, said the current laws prohibit it from bringing its service to other communities -- even those that have no Internet access.

For more:
- see this Times Free Press article

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