TTA’s Stance on Municipal Broadband

Posted: February 16, 2016

The member telcos of TTA are more than service providers. They are driven by a mission to serve their communities, a mission built upon a tradition of service often spanning 60 years or more. You will find no stronger advocates for serving the unserved and hard-to-serve, especially when it comes to advanced services such as broadband Internet access.

Therefore, as a group, we are not opposed to municipal power distributors in the state who want to expand their broadband offerings into surrounding areas that are currently unserved. We are, however, opposed to the concept of them expanding into underserved areas. The reason is that the definition of “underserved” can get quite muddy. Are we talking about 4 down/1 up? 25 down/3 up? If munis are allowed to expand without clear definitions, you could expect to see them moving into areas where TTA members have already invested millions of dollars to deliver quality, reliable broadband service.

The idea of competition is not the problem. The problem is competition that is subsidized by government money. And in the case where TTA members have taken advantage of RUS loans and grants to build their network, you could even see unbridled muni expansion resulting in taxpayer money being spent to duplicate what taxpayer money has already built. No one wins in that situation.

First and foremost, we believe all Tennesseans have the right to broadband access. But we also believe municipal expansion should be approached cautiously and with common sense. That’s why our stance is that the state legislature should take no action on current legislation regarding municipal expansion. Here’s why:

  1. We should wait for the findings of the Department of Economic and Community Development study.
  2. We should wait for the findings of the TACIR study.
  3. We should wait for the results of the appeals process that is currently taking place at the federal level regarding Tennessee and North Carolina initiatives.

Why do anything now until we have this information? Money and time are being spend to collect this information, and we should only move forward when we have it in hand.

Once this legislative session is over and the state’s reports are in, our coalition (which includes TTA members and cable providers) will convene and develop proposals. We believe 2017 will see definite progress on this issue in the state legislature, and we will be ready to represent the concerns of our members and their customers as the process unfolds.