There were plenty of memorable moments in Tennessee’s 109th General Assembly this year. For me, I’ll remember it specifically for at least one instance where common sense and patience won out — the 2016 session did not see any changes to municipal broadband regulations or any other significant legislation for telcos.
As the legislature adjourned for the year on April 22, I’m proud to report that legislators seemed to hear loud and clear the messages from the TTA legal team and individual TTA members pushing for careful consideration on municipal broadband changes.
While TTA believes strongly in spreading broadband accessibility to every resident of our great state, some of the ideas discussed this session would have done the exact opposite by discouraging telcos from investing in future growth for fear of municipal competition. Removing regulations on municipal providers would put telcos in the position of competing against a government agency that doesn’t pay the same taxes, can borrow money at lower rates and can bring in taxpayer funds to make up for potential shortcomings.
I know of very few managers who would be comfortable borrowing money to build out their broadband network, if they knew a municipal competitor — which could operate at a loss and even use the telco’s own tax dollars against it — was waiting to cherry-pick some of its choice customers.
I am very pleased that we were able to get legislators to understand our point of view.
While we did have two late resolutions that could have been damaging to the cause from Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma and John Forgety, R-Athens, (see legislative update LINK), we worked with the bill sponsors on reasonable improvements to the text before both were quietly swept away without being brought to the floor.
Sen. Bowling’s resolution being taken out of action served as a nice cap on the end of what I consider a successful legislative session. I appreciate everyone’s interest and encouragement, as well as the time and effort many members have put forth in educating their own local and state officials.
I look forward to seeing everyone at the TTA Annual Meeting and Convention in June, and I look forward to representing our members in what is sure to be a contentious legislative session in 2017.