The Benefits of Community Fiber

Community-Based Fiber Optics: A Model that Works

For many years, big telecom and cable told Tennessee customers and state legislators that we don’t need fiber optic speeds. They said old-fashioned landline solutions were good enough for people in Tennessee’s cities and that country folks could get by with cellular and satellite solutions, which are even slower and less reliable.

Taking matters into their own hands, seven of Tennessee’s municipal power providers launched community-wide fiber optic networks. These community-driven ventures have been incredibly successful.

In fact, the Tennessee Fiber Optic Communities are generating:

  • $181 million in fiber revenue annually (which helps enhance electric utility services and keep electric rates lower)
  • $6.5 million in annual in-lieu-of tax payments to local governments
  • 44% residential take rate (nearly 290,000 Tennesseans subscribe to fiber optic services

Despite the incredible success of municipal fiber optic networks, state law currently places territorial restrictions that prevent them from expanding beyond their current service area.

Changing state law to remove barriers to municipal fiber optics gives local leaders a new option for addressing their community’s broadband infrastructure needs.

Benefits of Community Fiber Networks

  • Job Creation: Tennessee’s fiber networks are drawing new companies and accelerating entrepreneurial activity. In Chattanooga, the Gigabit-speed network has contributed to the creation of more than 1,000 jobs. The fiber optic network also provides Tennesseans with the connectivity they need for distance working. More than 10,800 Tennessee companies opt for community fiber where available.
  • Increasing Broadband Access to Underserved Areas: By deploying community-wide fiber optic networks that include every home and business in the service area regardless of income, Tennessee Fiber Optic Communities are providing world-class broadband in places that have been un-served or underserved by traditional providers including rural areas. This model is so successful it can be expanded to serve more rural areas and communities.
  • Education: Fast Internet and video services enhance educational efforts at all levels. This is particularly important for adult learners who are utilizing online learning to retrain for new jobs. As a result, community fiber Internet services support Governor Haslam’s “Drive To 55” initiative.
  • Increasing Local Tax Revenues: Each of the Tennessee Fiber Optic Communities has significantly increased PILOT payments and other tax revenues to state and local governments. Together the Tennessee Fiber Optic Communities pay more than $6.5 million to local governments.

Eliminating barriers to municipal broadband is a good first step that will provide more Tennesseans with fiber optic Internet access.