Testimony from Tennessee: Our Quest for Broadband Internet

(Note: This guest blog post was drafted by Tom Matthews, Tennessee resident and member of Citizens Striving to be Part of the 21st Century.) 

When my wife and I decided to move from Omaha, Nebraska to the Chattanooga, Tennessee area over 5 years ago, one of the primary things we needed for our new home was broadband internet service like we had in Omaha.

I found a suitable house relatively close to the southwest Cleveland city limits in Bradley County.  Before buying the house, my wife and I checked with Charter Communications numerous times on their web site and twice by calling them directly.  Each time we provided the address of the prospective house, we were told that broadband cable and internet service was available.

Once we bought the house and moved in, the local Charter office told me that in fact their service was not available for my house, and their web site and representative we consulted were mistaken. Their line ends about 0.6 miles down the road from us.  But for a mere $8500, they could bring cable to my house. I was angry with both their misinformation, and their wanting me to fund their infrastructure.

We, like most people in this century, want and need reasonably priced broadband internet service, so for the next few years we tried Virgin Mobile, then Verizon, and then Sprint wireless internet.  Usage caps of 10 GB per month along with download speeds way below 10 Mbps for almost $100 per month was not the internet experience we desired.  Two of those “services” even mysteriously metered usage on my account when all of my equipment (wireless modem and router) was powered off and disconnected!  Fortunately, through participation in our group “Citizens Striving to be Part of the 21st Century” I was able to find a local Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) with internet service available at my location.  It is not broadband (less than 10 Mbps) and can be unreliable at times, but it is reasonably priced with no data caps.

My participation in the group also revealed that a Tennessee state law prohibits municipal utilities like Chattanooga’s Electric Power Board (EPB) from providing internet service to areas outside their electrical service area, even if no other company will provide that service and the residents request it.  This law, like similar laws in some other states, is only there to protect the big communications companies from competition, and does not benefit the residents of affected areas.  If our group can help get this law changed, EPB will be able to provide broadband fiber optic service to many of our members and other area residents relatively quickly.  The quest continues!

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