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Claude Ramsey

An effort to allow Chattanooga's EPB and other Tennessee municipal broadband providers to expand beyond their service areas is postponed until next year. But in the meantime, EPB has hired the former deputy governor to sway lawmakers on its behalf.

Former deputy governor and 16-year Hamilton County mayor Claude Ramsey announced Thursday he was starting River Branch Strategies, a government relations firm based in Chattanooga.

The announcement came three days after he took his first government customer -- EPB.

Tennessee Ethics Commission records show Ramsey registered Monday as a lobbyist for the publicly owned electricity, cable, telephone and Internet provider.

EPB spokesman John Pless said Ramsey "is a contracted consultant who registered to be able to lobby if need be."

The company is paying Ramsey $60,000 for a 12-month contract, Pless said.

Ramsey's office referred questions about the arrangement to EPB on Thursday.

But in a news release Thursday, Ramsey said his decades in government and his established relationships will help groups connect and collaborate with government officials.

"We are here to make the process easier and provide access for people," Ramsey said.

Lawmakers on Tuesday pulled a bill that would allow EPB to expand its high-speed Internet product beyond its service area. The reason: Lack of support in the state Senate.

EPB now serves the majority of Hamilton County, a swath of North Georgia and small parts of surrounding Tennessee counties.

Ramsey will join three others on EPB's lobbying team: Miller & Martin attorneys Mark Smith and Catie Lane Bailey, and Hamilton County's paid lobbyist, Will Denami.

The lobbying gig might pit Ramsey against the administration led by his former boss.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery Jr. last month asked the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review the FCC's final order allowing the expansion.

Ramsey became Haslam's top deputy in 2011 and stepped down in 2013, citing a desire to spend more time with his family.

And Haslam isn't the only one against the bill. Private Internet providers such as At&t, Comcast, Time-Warner and others have opposed the FCC ruling and the state law.

According to state ethics commission records, communication companies opposed to the Tennessee bill's passage have six registered lobbyists in the state. Comcast has two, Charter Communication has one and the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association has three.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at, @glbrogdoniv on Twitter or at 423-757-6481.