The municipal fiber provider for Chattanooga, EPB, is confident that change is on the horizon in regards to current broadband legislation. While the company is restricted to selling only 1 Gbps within its town, other surrounding towns continuously request to gain access to their service. Furthermore, local telecom providers continue to exacerbate the digital divide problem as they fail to make progress in expanding and upgrading their services. The need for connectivity is not going to simply disappear because large telecom providers do not want to pay the price.
EPB and other municipalities that want to establish their own networks refuse to give up in the face of these regulatory challenges. As Danna Bailey, the VP of corporate communications for EPB, says it is the stories from the communities that continue to push change.
“What we’re hearing every year is more and more constituents who are raising their hands saying I am driving my child to McDonalds to do his homework or I can’t sell my house because I don’t have broadband so it’s becoming a real issue…When we first went into the market, people did not realize how much of an issue broadband has become but it is there.”
EPB, along with six other Tennessee communities that built similar FTTH networks continue to petition the state in order to change the current law. No progress has been made yet, but Bailey hopes that when general assembly goes back into session the issue of broadband will be brought to the table once again.
While these municipal providers lack the deep influential pockets that the telecoms have, it is the support, pressure, and insistence of community members that Bailey believes will ultimately result in change and connectivity.