Chattanooga’s EPB (formerly the Electric Power Board) has announced it is considering filing a petition to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to neighboring communities’ requests for access to the company’s gigabit enabled Internet service.
Back in 2010 EPB, an electricity distribution and telecommunications company owned by the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, was the first company in the United States to offer one gigabit a second high speed internet, but there expansive areas on the outskirts of EPB’s electric service territory, where citizens and businesses have little or no broadband Internet connectivity.
According to EPB, the company “has received regular requests to help some of these communities obtain critical broadband internet infrastructure. However, since 1999, while state law has allowed EPB to provide phone services outside its electric service territory, it has prohibited EPB from offering Internet and video services to any areas outside its electric service area.”
The policies that prevent EPB from helping its neighbors have come to the attention of the FCC. The government has determined providing broadband Internet to the nation is of critical importance so the FCC is required by Congress to identify and remove barriers to the expansion of access to broadband Internet.
EPB’s president and chief executive officer Harold DePriest says, “At EPB, we believe that Internet access is the critical infrastructure for the twenty-first century. True broadband infrastructure provides access to information, jobs, and education and gives citizens and businesses the opportunity to fully participate in – and to lead – our emerging knowledge economy. Communities should have the right, at the local level, to determine their broadband futures.”
Should the FCC remove the barriers, EPB would be able to consider the requests of its neighbors to help them obtain access to broadband Internet services. EPB reports it will apply the a few guidelines: to only extend service to cities and counties that request EPB’s presence; EPB will not extend service outside its electric power service territory to any areas unless it is financially feasible to do so; to never use electric customer dollars to cross-subsidize Internet and video services.