Non-Government Gig Hits Nashville
BY JUSTIN OWEN
Today, news broke that AT&T will bring Gigabit Internet service to Nashville. This is a significant investment and a clear sign that when the government stays out of the market, private investment follows and businesses thrive. Unfortunately, we have also seen the other side of this coin. Last week, Chattanooga petitioned the FCC to allow an expansion of its government-owned Gigabit network—financed on public dollars, carrying a price tag of more than $550 million for taxpayers and ratepayers. These subsidies have created an unfair advantage for the Electric Power Board (EPB), the public operator of the network, making it difficult and unappealing for independent networks to compete. Yet, despite these unfair advantages, EPB has struggled to capture a considerable share of the local market. Just some 4,000 of Chattanooga’s 173,000 residents are surfing the Internet at high speeds through EPB. To make matters worse, EPB President Harold DePriest remarked that his employees had the pleasure of spending like drunken sailors. Of course, that’s easier to do when it’s taxpayer money and not your own bottom-line. Fortunately, the largely conservative and more fiscally responsible Tennessee General Assembly has refused to allow Chattanooga to expand its public network. Yet, Chattanooga government officials believe they’re entitled to their subsidized growth and have now turned to the federal government and the FCC. And while I would love to see the same fiscal restraint from the federal government that has been displayed by our General Assembly, I am not holding my breath. I will, however, be closely watching a bill introduced in Congress by Rep. Marsha Blackburn that would prohibit the FCC from trampling on states’ authority to limit the growth of government-owned networks. After all, most of us wouldn’t expect the government to mow our lawns, run our restaurants, repair our homes, or offer many of the services provided by the private sector, so why should we ask them to provide us with Internet? – Justin Owen Enjoy the Beacon blog? Help us keep it going with a tax-deductible gift.