EPB's handout: Bo Watson's bill harms consumers, kills competition

Should area customers of Comcast and other cable and telecommunications providers be forced, by state law, to pay higher rates for cable, telephone and Internet service to subsidize EPB's struggling fiber business? Of course not.

But that's exactly what will happen if an ill-conceived bill proposed by state Sen. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, passes through the Tennessee legislature.

Throughout the nation, cable, telephone and Internet providers pay a fee every year to electric providers to rent a portion of electric poles to run the lines necessary to provide their services to homes and businesses. That fee is supposed to be used by electric companies to help install and maintain poles.

Watson's legislation would allow Tennessee's electric cooperatives and government-owned utilities to charge an exorbitant amount for cable and telecommunications companies to use electric companies' utility poles.

Nationally,