NASHVILLE - The nation's future is now in Chattanooga when it comes to meeting new national standards for fiber-optic broadband service, EPB President Harold DePriest said today.
"In Chattanooga, we today have a system that meets the national broadband requirements for 10 years from now," Mr. DePriest told state Senate Finance Committee members. "Part of the issue I think that you got to think about is whether we're getting Tennessee ready for yesterday or are we getting Tennessee ready for tomorrow."
He said that, in the last 20 months, EPB has "built the largest and most powerful municipal fiber home system in the United States" with the ability "right now" to provide 100 megabytes of Internet capacity to 100,000 homes.
Mr. DePriest's comments came in support of a Bredesen administration proposal that would let EPB and other municipally owned electric services compete outside their current service areas. It also would allow them to use general tax revenues and cross-subsidization to develop fiber broadband systems, if local elected officials approve it by two-thirds votes.
Earlier, three of Capitol Hill's most powerful players - AT&T, cable providers and independent and cooperative telephone exchanges - told lawmakers they should oppose the plan.
AT&T Tennessee President Gregg Morton said he was there to explain why the Bredesen proposal is "bad for AT&T, but more importantly, why it's bad for the state of Tennessee."
Mr. Morton questioned why something "this sweeping and far reaching" in terms of policy was being presented in an appropriations-related measure rather than going through the legislative commerce committees.
"The thought of taking tax dollars or any other resources to spend on a network that already exists (for AT&T and private sector) is questionable," he added.
Mr. Morton said figures show slightly more than 90 percent of Tennesseans already have access to broadband services.
No action was taken on the administration's "omnibus" legislation, but Senate Republicans said they hoped to take it up tonight.