Interactive EPB map
View an interactive map of EPB residential broadband connections in the Chattanooga area.
Broadband battle: FCC, Legislature square off over EPB bid to expand Gig territory
NASHVILLE -- Republican Gov. Bill Haslam today said he will explore whether to appeal last week's Federal Communications Commission's decision allowing Chattanooga's EPB to offer lightning-speed Internet broadband beyond the municipal power distributor's service area.
"We're going to have that conversation," Haslam told reporters this morning following an address to businessmen and businesswomen at Lipscomb University.
He said state officials must "make sure there's a reasonable reason to do that."
A spokesman for Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, who has called a news conference for later this afternoon, said the lawmakers "see this ruling as a clear example of federal overreach -- something that will certainly have an impact on state sovereignty."
Stymied for years by their legislatures on expansion, Chattanooga's EPB and a Wilson, N.C.-owned utility pressed the issue with federal regulators and won.
State Attorney General Herbert Slatery and Haslam were among state officials who wrote the FCC to urge commissioners not to intervene.
Haslam spokesman David Smith said in an email statement to the Times Free Press on Monday that the governor "continues to believe that encouraging investment in broadband is the right thing to do and that those decisions are best made at the state level."
Asked whether the state intended to appeal the FCC's ruling, Smith referred a reporter's question to Slatery.
Slatery spokeswoman Leigh Ann Jones said in a statement that "we have not made a decision about the state's next step. As we pointed out in our Feb. 5, 2015 letter to the Commission, even with purported authorization from the FCC, a local governmental power board would still need state legislative authority to expand its service area."
She said "we are disappointed the FCC would assert authority over a local governmental body, which is an area of responsibility resting exclusively with the state in which the local governmental body exists."
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, who supports the FCC decision, said in an interview Monday that " the only state action we want to see is removal of all the state's laws that prohibit EPB from expanding their footprint."
Noting that nearby officials in Marion and Bradley counties want access to EPB's gigabit service, Berke said, "We know this is something people want in Tennessee and can help improve our regional economy."