Broadband Gap in Tennessee Study Reports

In June, Commissioner Randy Boyd, who leads the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, released a study about the broadband gap in Tennessee. Commissioner Boyd’s engagement on this issue is very encouraging. Here are some key findings from the report (full report):

  • More than 800,000 Tennesseans do not have access to minimum broadband speeds.
  • Rural Tennesseans are the most disadvantaged by the broadband gap.
  • High-speed internet access remains a top deciding factor for businesses deciding where to create jobs.
  • Fiber optic connectivity is the fastest, most reliable, and highest rated by households and businesses in Tennessee by a wide margin.
  • An open regulatory environment that allows any entity to build telecommunications infrastructure and offer broadband services can spur investment, competition and expanded access. 

The next session of the Tennessee Legislature starts in January of 2017. This session is our next opportunity for state lawmakers to remove restrictions that prevent community-owned networks from serving neighbors in surrounding areas.
Thank Commissioner Boyd for bringing attention to this issue: call (615) 741-1888, email or tweet.

Posted on November 29, 2016 .

Legislators challenge AT&T to prove its claims

AT&T announced Thursday it is bringing its 100 percent fiber network to areas of Bradley County.

However, the two state legislators who have spearheaded efforts for broadband expansion say seeing will be believing.

According to a press release, the communications giant reports it will be providing faster internet service to more homes and small businesses, including AT&T GigaPower service with internet speeds up to 1 gigabit per second.

“It’s encouraging to see private investment filling the demand for high-speed broadband in rural Tennessee,” said state Sen. Mike Bell in the release. “My colleagues and I are striving to create policies that foster free markets and I think this is a great example of those policies paying off.

“With the 100 percent fiber network in parts of Bradley County, customers will have access to many AT&T high-speed internet options,” the statement said.

Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis is quoted in the release as saying high-speed internet can open new doors for the citizens of Bradley County and positively affect many aspects of life, such as education and job attraction.

“This is a great step toward providing our rural areas with better broadband services. We look forward to the time that private sector investment brings this type of high-speed connectivity to all of Bradley County,” Davis said.

AT&T says it has choices to fit each customer’s needs, including wireless networking capability for all internet customers. The company states customers may be able to choose its award-winning DirecTV or U-verse TV services.

“We have single, double and triple play offers to make it easy for customers to meet all of their needs in one stop,” the statement reads.

“The investments AT&T is making in Tennessee are delivering the modern communications services that Tennesseans demand, and we are excited to extend our 100 percent fiber-optic network even further throughout the state to bring speeds up to 1 gigabit to residential and small business areas in Bradley County,” said AT&T Tennessee State President Joelle Phillips. “The hard work of the men and women at AT&T is turning our investments into high-speed connections that can serve as catalysts for new employment and economic growth.”

AT&T said it has invested more than $1.15 billion in its Tennessee wireless and wired networks during 2013-2015. In January, AT&T announced that it had added 1 million additional business customer locations — including more than 28,500 in the state of Tennessee — to its fiber network since 2012 when the company began an aggressive fiber expansion program.

“Trust, but verify,” said state Rep. Kevin Brooks, recalling a phrase made famous by the late President Ronald Reagan.

“We thank this provider for sending Bradley County some version of high-speed fiber, at what their press release states ‘up to 1 gig,’” Brooks said in a statement to the Cleveland Daily Banner. “But wouldn't it be wonderful to allow free-market across county lines for providers who already serve our next county neighbors with up to 10 gig fiber? Why not here? Why not now? “

“What we need to verify in this new or any fiber service being brought to Bradley County is at what speed, and at exactly where will service be provided. We should trust. But we should verify,” he continued.

“In paragraph one of the new service announcement it states, ‘to areas of Bradley County ...,’” Brooks said. “What areas exactly? Why not all areas of Bradley County?”

“In paragraph three of the new service announcement it states, ‘in parts of Bradley County ...,’” he added. “Which parts exactly? Why not all parts of Bradley County?” 

Brooks added, “As I've stated previously, why is Tennessee waiting to give every home, every family, every Tennesseean equal and full access to all the fiber technology we have in Tennessee? We already have the fastest internet city in the world, right next door to Bradley County. Soon faster fiber will be in other major metropolitan cities in Tennessee. Why not open the windows and doors to allow fiber to stretch from Mountain City to Memphis? We could have the fastest fiber state in the nation, if we wanted too. I want to.”

State Rep. Dan Howell said that his goal is to see that his constituents in the rural areas of Bradley, Polk and Meigs counties have access to the same 21st century fiber as the residents in urban areas of the state; especially the students. 

“I have always said that it doesn't matter to me who provides it, as long as it gets done. So I welcome AT&T fiber into their ‘selected areas’ of Bradley County,” Howell said in a statement to the Cleveland Daily Banner.

“But in reality it's documented that for the past decade this company has received hundreds of millions of dollars in federal subsidies for the purpose of broadband expansion in rural America,” Howell continued. “Are we finally, at long last, seeing some of our money spent here in parts of our county? When will we see it used to expand broadband to all areas of rural Bradley, Polk and Meigs counties? 

“As Granny used to say, “The proof is in the pudding,’” Howell said.

The representative also posed questions concerning how AT&T will expand its area outreach.

“Will AT&T only focus on the profit centers? Will rural residents still be left out? Their own press release says ‘parts of’ the county,” Howell said. “Will my constituent who owns a business in the city limits still have to pay $1,706 a month for 100 mg, or will the price now be more competitive with the same service that's available in Chattanooga for $350?”

“Will the two IT startup companies in downtown Cleveland get the stable broadband they need at a fair price, or will they still have to consider moving their business to Chattanooga because the cost is so high they can't stay in business?” Howell said. “What's in the pudding? Only time will give us the answer to these questions.”

He also expressed his concerns which developed after he said Polk County educators estimated at least 70 percent of that county’s student body does not have access to internet or broadband in their homes and cannot do research or turn in homework from home.

“So how can we expect students in the rural areas to keep pace with those in the urban areas who have had access to this technology for years?” Howell said.

“So while I welcome AT&T fiber to the areas they have decided to serve in Bradley County, I still believe the best solution to the broadband expansion in Tennessee is fair and open competition across the state. Only then will this ‘new 21st century utility’ follow the example of electricity and reach every corner of the state,” Howell concluded.

AT&T said more information about its services can be found on the AT&T Business Fiber website.

To learn more about AT&T’s coverage in Tennessee, or anywhere in the U.S., visit the AT&T Coverage Viewer. Updates on the AT&T wireless network are available on the AT&T network news page.,41106

Brian Graves, Banner Staff Writer
August 26, 2016 11:37 am

Posted on November 29, 2016 .

Cable TV Subscribers Still Unhappy, New Consumer Reports Survey Shows

Along with death, taxes, and an ever-growing assortment of Bravo reality shows, disenchantment with your cable TV service seems to be among life's certainties. As in previous years, Consumer Reports' new telecom service Ratings (available to subscribers), showed broad dissatisfaction among customers with cable TV and internet plans. The providers earned, on average, low scores for value and overall satisfaction.

But there were two bright spots, a municipal broadband service run as a public utility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and a fiber service run by Google in a handful of markets across the country. These innovative options both outpaced the conventional telecommunications companies when it came to value and customer satisfaction.

The new telecom Ratings were based on a recent survey of more than 172,000 subscribers reporting on their experience with home internet, pay TV, and telephone service.

Some of the country's largest cable TV companies—including Comcast, as well as Time Warner Cable and Charter, which recently merged—are among the bottom dwellers in overall customer satisfaction, though they actually don't score the worst. (More on that later.) And, when it comes to internet service, only three of 54 providers received better than a middling score for value. Subscribers opting for TV, internet, and phone bundles were just as unhappy. They didn't deem a single company worthy of more than the worst score for value.


TV Service

The telecom survey included 30 pay TV services. Of those, 70 percent offered cable, while 23 percent had fiber, and 7 percent provided satellite service.

By and large, the bigger cable TV companies fared poorly. In fact, if it weren't for Mediacom Communications (which serves a little more than a half-million customers in the Midwest and Southeast) and MetroCast (New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia), Time Warner Cable and Comcast would have landed at the bottom of the Ratings for bundled packages and TV service. And Charter and Cox were each just a few steps up in that last category.

The results were ugly for value, too, with 28 of the 30 TV service providers earning our lowest score. The two exceptions—municipal broadband company EPB Fiber Optics-Chattanooga and Google Fiber—each earned high scores from the survey respondents. Both services offer super-fast 1-gigabit-per-second (Gbps) speeds. 

EPB Fiber Optics-Chattanooga ranked highest in the survey for overall satisfaction, edging out Google Fiber and cable company Armstrong.

Only about one-third of the subscribers surveyed say they're very or completely satisfied with their service. Still, people seem to find it tough to come up with a better alternative. Only about 17 percent reported dropping or cutting back on their pay TV service in the past year.


Internet Service

EPB Chattanooga topped this list, as well, earning high marks for value, reliability, and speed in its role as an internet service provider (ISP). Another top performer was Sonic ( in our survey)—a relatively small company that provides high-speed DSL service in Northern California and Los Angeles—which received top scores for value and reliability. Google Fiber earned kudos for speed, while Armstrong scored well for customer service and technical support.

Consistent with the Ratings in prior years, HughesNet was at the bottom of the chart, along with cable provider Mediacom, FairPoint Communications (DSL), and Dish Network (satellite). Of the three largest ISPs in the survey, Verizon (fiber) scored considerably higher than Comcast and Time Warner in overall satisfaction.

One bright spot across the board: Median internet speeds have reached 25Mbps, which is what now constitutes broadband accordingto the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC. 


Bundles Get Booed

You might imagine that bundled services—TV, internet, and phone in one neat little package—would make people happier, but think again. Every single bundle in our survey received a poor score for value. And fewer than one in three subscribers said they were very or completely satisfied with their bundles.

And yet, some companies stood out for being especially disappointing. The list includes Mediacom, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Cox Communications. (The Cox result is a hybrid score, which we use for plans that combine services on different connection types or services from different providers.) Among the best bundled service providers, according to our readers, were Wave, SuddenLink Communications, and RCN. Suddenlink is in the midst of being acquired by Altice, a European telecom company that's also buying middle-of-the-pack Cablevision.

Many subscribers report having at least one negative experience with their bundle provider. Among the key complaints, 40 percent said the cost of a bundle jumped significantly after the promotional period expired. And 23 percent said extra fees and taxes made their bills higher than they had anticipated.

One last finding from the survey: It pays to negotiate. Subscribers report paying a median of $180 a month for their bundles, and more than two-thirds of those subscribers (70 percent) have tried to negotiate a better deal—either a lower rate or additional features. Not everyone succeeded, but nearly 40 percent of the negotiators were able to get a new promotional rate, 16 percent received additional premium channels, and roughly 12 percent got faster broadband speeds.

James K. Willcox
June 15, 2016


Posted on November 29, 2016 .

Change laws, allow broadband access

Change laws, allow broadband access

Governor Haslam, many residents in parts of Hamilton and Bradley counties, along with the rest of the state, are only able to get Internet via cellphone providers or a dish. To get television, we need an additional dish on the roof. None of these options are consistently reliable. The data plans are limited and expensive.

If we really want to be the state that supports education, then all the tools necessary for success must be made available for all residents, and this includes high-speed broadband access. I encourage you to push for repeal of the outdated laws and allow municipal utilities to provide broadband service. ATT, Comcast and Charter are against this but refuse to provide the service to rural Tennessee. They say private business should not have to compete with municipal utilities. Follow the money, and you will see the private telecoms get more federal funds than municipal utilities to service rural areas.

We need EPB to expand in this area as it is the only company willing to provide broadband to underserved areas.

Bill Perry

Read this letter and more at

Posted on February 3, 2016 .

10-Year-Old Ashlynn Speaks Out

At last week's community meeting, we heard from 10 year old Ashlyn. Please take a moment to listen to her thoughts on living without high speed internet service. Do you know of other young students across our state facing the same obstacles Ashlyn faces? If so, tell us about it at

Posted on November 6, 2015 .

Why Local Control Matters

What if your community didn’t have paved roads? All of the in-town streets were one-lane dirt paths, and the more rural areas only had beaten trails. Would you want state regulations to limit your options for improving your community’s roadways?

That’s the situation Tennesseans face when it comes to fiber optic infrastructure. Copper lines were state-of-the-art for telecommunications during the Civil War. Cellular and satellite data rates are slower still and even more expensive to consumers. 

And yet, big telecom and cable, which are authorized to expand, refuse to deploy fiber to all but a handful of Tennesseans—and those are mostly people who already have another fiber optic option.

In contrast, seven of Tennessee’s municipal utilities have successfully deployed community-wide fiber optic networks, but state law prohibits them from expanding beyond their current service area—even though local leaders in other communities are inviting them to expand to serve their citizens.

In today’s world, the Internet is as important as good roads to your community’s ability to attract industry, support existing business growth, educate your young people, retrain your adults for emerging job opportunities, and increasingly for healthcare delivery.

Fiber optic networks provide key competitive advantages for addressing all of these community challenges—some of the toughest we face as Tennesseans. 

Is it right to let outsiders decide which Tennessee communities will remain competitive?

How you can help: Sign up to receive updates and information about actions you can take in support of community fiber.

Posted on May 20, 2015 .

Tennessee Broadband Expansion Bill on Hold Until 2016

Nashville, TN (March 31, 2015) 

Advocates for broadband expansion in Tennessee announced that efforts to extend community-based fiber optic networks are being placed on hold until the next legislative session because there is not enough support among state lawmakers to change a state regulation that prevents the expansion of municipal fiber optic systems.

According to Senator Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma), who sponsored legislation that would allow municipal utilities to provide fiber optic services beyond their current service area, she withdrew the measure to make it easier to re-introduce the bill next year. “Thanks to a growing number of Tennesseans, who are contacting their representatives to communicate their critical need for broadband services, we made more progress this legislative session than ever before,” Senator Bowling said. “Next year, I hope the needs of the hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans with little or no broadband service will override the vested interests of the legacy carriers who refuse to serve them while lobbying to prevent community-based providers from meeting the needs of the people in our state.”

In addition, Senator Bowling said removing Tennessee’s territorial restrictions reinforces free-market competition. “Currently, most Tennesseans have no choice when it comes to broadband,” said Senator Bowling. “The lucky ones have one broadband provider and many have no choice for broadband services at all. The Tennessee Fiber Optic Communities are proving competition is good both for customers and the competitive businesses themselves. I want to see that kind of competition spread across the state.”

Harold DePriest, president and CEO of EPB and chair of the Tennessee Fiber Optic Communities, pointed to the value of giving local elected leaders the freedom and responsibility to make infrastructure decisions for the betterment of the communities they serve. “State officials would never tell city or county leaders that they couldn’t build roads for local residents and businesses,” DePriest said. “In the 21st Century, broadband infrastructure is just as critical as good roadways to the economic development and quality of life of a community. Allowing investor-driven entities headquartered in other states to pick which Tennessee communities win and which lose when it comes to this critical infrastructure undermines the fundamental principle of local control.”

Those interested in learning more about how to support broadband expansion in Tennessee are encouraged to sign up to receive updates.

Posted on May 19, 2015 .