Tennessee residents could have a new cable choice within two years after AT&T’s filing Tuesday for a statewide franchise, a $400 million investment.
“It creates an environment that (allows) companies to invest in Tennessee in bandwidth,” said AT&T spokesman Bob Corney. “The real winners at the end of the day are consumers.”
AT&T would start providing local cable service within two years to Chattanooga, East Ridge, Red Bank, Soddy-Daisy, Cleveland, Athens and Manchester, Tenn., plus unincorporated areas of Hamilton, Bradley, McMinn and Coffee counties, according to the company’s filing. Mr. Corney declined to say which areas could receive service first or when they might see service within the two-year period.
Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis would be among other cities receiving the cable service from AT&T.
Tuesday was the first day that AT&T could file its petition with the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, the agency that regulates telecommunications. The request will become official in 45 days if the paperwork is complete, TRA spokesman Phil West said.
AT&T officials said their cable service will come through AT&T U-verse, an Internet Protocol-based television service. IPTV employs technology used by computer networks and often comes with services such as access to the Web and Internet phone.
The company will invest about $400 million over several years in fiber network upgrades, further broadband deployment and IPTV rollout, according to an AT&T news release.
An official with the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association, which fought AT&T’s franchise plan, said Tuesday that cable providers now offer high-quality service across the state.
“The cable industry has already invested well over $1 billion in communities across the state and continues to invest over $200 million annually to bring the most advanced technologies to Tennesseans,” Stacey B. Briggs, the association’s president and executive director, said in a statement.
The legislation allows AT&T and other companies to bypass traditional local cable franchise agreements and apply for a state license. Comcast and the cable industry bottled the bill up in legislative committee last year. But under pressure from House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, a compromise was reached in this year’s General Assembly.
“I think the way it eventually got done really does open the doors to much broader access, much broader broadband access in the state,” Gov. Phil Bredesen said. “I’m actually glad they moved this quickly.”
The law allows AT&T or other companies seeking state franchises to amend later where they intend to offer services if they decide a change in direction is needed. Under the law’s provisions, AT&T would be required to offer roughly 600,000 of its customers the new services within 3 1/2 years. Twenty-five percent of households being offered AT&T Tennessee’s video services must be low income, under the law.
In Chattanooga, AT&T may not be the only company competing for a slice of Comcast’s business. Comcast is the largest cable provider in the city.
EPB has said it plans to start unveiling its fiber to home cable, Internet and telephone service starting early 2009. But Comcast of the South filed a lawsuit in Hamilton County Chancery Court, claiming that state law prohibits a municipal utility from using revenue from electricity to subsidize a cable venture.
A Nashville chancellor last Friday decided not to reinstate a similar cable industry lawsuit against EPB that she previously had dismissed.
“We welcome competition to the area and believe that our community will benefit from having more options and choices for service providers,” Katie Espeseth, EPB vice president of communications, said in a statement.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...