Stand with Tennessee, Tell AT&T To Back Down!

Year ago I was sidelined with a stroke and my blog went on hiatus. But it’s back and issuing a rallying call as Tennessee legislators try to remove that state’s restriction on public- and co-op-run broadband.

Battle flagBroadband community, make your voices heard, make a difference in Tennessee! This law has got to go. Write the Governor of Tennessee. Better yet, call him – 615) 741-2001. Demand these legislators to stand up for their constituents’ right to get the best possible broadband they can, and tell AT&T to get the hell out of away! Call ’em, e-mail ’em, then ask your neighbors to do the same.

Let’s be clear here. Muni broadband is not “unfair competition” by local government. When Wilson’s 12-person IT department several years ago planned, built and managed a network that delivered speeds 20 times faster than the best Time Warner Cable offered, that’s competing with superior technology. When Comcast customers switch to Chattanooga’s 10-gig network because EPB offers far better customer service, that’s competent competition. When tiny Reedsburg, Wis. refuses to compete against the large cable company on price, but beats competitors by offering greater value provided by local management, they compete based on local credibility.

Fred Pilot, longtime blogger at and author of the recently published eBook, “Service Unavailable: America’s Telecommunications Infrastructure Crisis“, make the case that it is silly to even consider what communities are building is in some way compete with what telcos and cable companies are marketing.

“It’s a fallacious argument because the incumbents and communities aren’t in the same business – a basic prerequisite for market competition. The incumbents are in the business of packaging and selling discrete bits of Internet bandwidth. They sell it by throughput speed with speed-tiered pricing for service and by volume. The faster the connection and the more bandwidth consumed, the higher the price. Naturally, the incumbents segment their service territories and product offerings to generate the highest possible profit for that bandwidth. After all, they owe it to their shareholders.

“State and local governments on the other hand aren’t in the bandwidth business or selling it to generate maximum profit. They are in the infrastructure business – planning, constructing and financing it to support public objectives such as economic development and enhancing the delivery of public services. In the 20th century, they did that by building roads and highways. In the 21st, they do it by building FTTP infrastructure.”

A rising number of city leaders are starting to wake up to the fact that we need to reframe the discussion about high speed Internet access. Conferences nationwide are bringing together folks who have success stories about using broadband as an asset together with those who were beginning their journey.

“Rather than wait for incumbent ISPs to build the network your cities want and need, you can take control of your own broadband futures,” Gigi Sohn told a group of us conference attendees recently. “Rather than thinking of yourselves as taxers and regulators, think of yourselves as facilitators of the kind of services you’ve been begging the incumbents to provide for years.”

Probably the most important question you should ask yourself is, If not us, who? If not now, when? Be a rebel with a broadband cause!

Besides fighting the good fight for broadband, I consult with communities and help them execute needs analysis that 1) creates more opportunities to get fund their broadband efforts, and 2) increase the financial sustainability of their network. Download my book today: 80% new content, new tips and advice, new success stories. 

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