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