EPB mulling gigabit expansion outside of Chattanooga

EPB mulling gigabit expansion outside of Chattanooga

July 11th, 2014 by Ellis Smith in Local - Breaking News

A screen EPB uses to monitor gigabit Internet.

A screen EPB uses to monitor gigabit Internet.

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

Chattanooga utility EPB announced that it will consider asking the FCC to allow it to expand gigabit fiber optic Internet, TV and phone access outside of Chattanooga to the communities surrounding the Gig City.

It's the latest salvo in a legal battle that has ranged between cold war and active hostilities since the city-owned utility first won approval to offer fiber services in Chattanooga, much to the chagrin of Comcast, AT&T and other private competitors.

Within a few years, EPB had created the fastest community-wide Internet network in the western hemisphere, second only to a handful of research universities and places like Kansas City, which is only partially built out.

Today, an invisible line runs down through the middle of communities in Georgia and Tennessee. It's the line between consumers who have access to EPB's gigabit service, and those who only have access to private competitors such as Comcast, Charter or AT&T.

That line is mandated by law. EPB is only allowed to offer fiber optic service to customers who also get their electricity from EPB. That status quo has had little chance of changing, until now.

Recent signals by the FCC have indicated that the federal agency is interested in seeing wider ultra-high speed broadband penetration in communities across the U.S., and EPB is prepared to request that the agency overrule state laws that prevent it from offering gigabit service to more customers, said Harold DePriest, president and CEO of EPB.

"At EPB, we believe that Internet access is the critical infrastructure for the 21st 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," DePriest said. "Communities should have the right, at the local level, to determine their broadband futures."

Read more in tomorrow's Times Free Press.

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at 423-757-6315 or esmith@timesfreepress.com with tips and documents..