Broadband bill axed; Brooks blames lobbyists

A last-ditch effort by state Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, to save salvage his municipal broadband bill failed Tuesday, the Times-Free Press reports. Brooks had tried narrowing the bill from applying statewide to instead be a regional demonstration project.

As a platoon of AT&T and other lobbyists opposed to the measure stood outside the room watching proceedings on a video screen, House Business and Utilities Subcommittee members voted 5-3 against Brook’s proposed amendment.

Brooks had tried narrowing the bill from applying statewide to instead be a small demonstration project — xpected to let Chattanooga’s EPB extend its lightning-fast Internet broadband and video offerings to underserved areas of Hamilton and Bradley counties.

…”It’s a testament to the power of lobbying against this bill and not listening to our electorate,” Brooks told reporters after leaving the committee room. “We have thousands of petitions that were signed [and placed] in everybody s office. And the voice of the people today was not heard. And that’s unfortunate.”

Asked who was lobbying against the bill, Brooks said, “the list of who was not would be shorter. I heard they hired 27 lawyers to fight.”

…Rep. Dan Howell, R-Georgetown, whose Bradley County district would have benefited from the bill, said the proposed amendment “was the perfect opportunity for EPB to be a pilot and to prove they can do what they say they can do. And if they can’t do it, it’s a perfect opportunity to put it to rest forever.

“They wouldn’t even let us do a pilot to prove that EPB can do what it claimed,” Howell added.

Brooks said “it just shows that this is not a statewide issue. This is not even a local issue. This is a who’s-got-the-most-power issue. And right now it was not us.”

AT&T, Comcast and other opponents say it’s unfair to let EPB and its municipal counterparts extend their Internet and video offerings outside their service areas.