The Daily News Journal, March 1, 2015
MURFREESBORO – Along with its vote to support net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission ruled Thursday that city-owned broadband services can expand into areas overlooked by commercial providers. The decision quietly played out minutes before the FCC took up the higher-profile issue of Internet neutrality, which imposed the toughest rules yet on broadband providers such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T.
In the less prominent case, the cities of Chattanooga and Wilson, N.C., asked the FCC to override state laws that have prevented them from expanding their super-fast Internet networks. They were built when companies didn’t move into their city.
The ruling could mean expanded Internet service offerings in Rutherford County, said Brian Robertson, director, Rutherford County Office of Information Technology and president of Mind2Marketplace.
“This ruling would seem to be a win for ubiquitous broadband, particularly in Tennessee, where it has the effect of preempting rules that may have in some cases prevented broadband providers from meeting local demand for broadband service,” Robertson said.
He was among the members of the Rutherford County Tech Community who met last month to open a discussion about bringing the gigabit Internet to Rutherford County here as a public works project, like in Chattanooga.
More than 450 communities nationwide have municipal broadband offerings, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, which supports community Internet providers.
Those who want to limit municipal broadband say the laws protect taxpayers from government bureaucrats botching business decisions.
Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board borrowed $226 million from investors hoping the super-fast phone and Internet service would attract new business to the city of 173,000. City officials credit the network for helping attract tech startups, including a custom shoemaker using 3-D printing technology.