EPB petitions FCC to let it provide high-speed Internet to cities around Chattanooga

EPB petitions FCC to let it provide high-speed Internet to cities around Chattanooga

July 24th, 2014 by Alex Green in Local - Breaking News

Electric Power Board president and CEO Harold DePriest

Electric Power Board president and CEO Harold DePriest

Photo by Margaret Fenton

A screen EPB uses to monitor gigabit Internet.

A screen EPB uses to monitor gigabit Internet.

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.

EPB officials want the Federal Communications Commission to remove barriers preventing them from taking gigabit Internet into surrounding communities.

The Chattanooga power, telephone and Internet provider said so in a petition filed with the FCC, according to a Thursday news release.

EPB provides high-speed Internet to customers in its 600-square-mile electric service territory right now, thanks to its fiber optic network.

But "a digital desert exists just outside EPB's electric service territory," the company says.

Thursday's release states that "for several years, EPB has received regular requests to help some of these communities obtain critical broadband Internet infrastructure."

But under state law and territory restrictions, EPB is not able to use infrastructure in place to provide high-speed Internet to those locations outside the EPB electric service area.

"EPB asserts that the territorial restriction in Tennessee law should be removed if the Congressional objective of advancing widespread availability of broadband is to be carried out," said the release.

Harold DePriest, CEO and president of EPB, said "Communities should have the right, at the local level, to determine their broadband futures."

EPB says if the territorial restriction was lifted, it would only expand into cities and counties that request its precense.

The company also said it would not expand unless it is "financially feasible" to do so, and that it "has never used electric customer dollars to cross-subsidize Internet and video services and never will."