The Tennessee Senate Commerce Committee had voted 8-0 for a 94 percent fee increase that private broadband providers would have to pay to the state’s government owned utilities and electric cooperatives in order to attach fiber lines to their utility poles.
Opponents of the measure claimed the increase "will impede broadband investment, and broadband consumers would bear enormous financial burdens in a fragile economy."
“This legislation will stifle Internet and phone service deployment and ultimately hurt consumers,” said David E.
Williams with the Taxpayers Protection Alliance at a press conference following the hearing.
The fee increase, proposed by Senator Bo Watson (R-Hixson) and Representative Jimmy Matlock (R-Lenoir City), will nearly double Tennessee’s current $17 average fee per pole to $33, far and away the highest average fee of any state in America, he said.
Mr. Williams said, "The Federal Communications Commission formula for privately owned, non-government utilities is about $7 per pole, nearly five times less than the fee supported today by members of Senate Commerce. About 80 percent of the nation’s utility power supply is privately produced. Tennessee’s utility power system is dominated by government-owned utilities, which are exempt from the federal formula.This exemption is being abused at the highest level."
Voting in support of Senate Bill 1222/House Bill 11111were Senators Charlotte Burks, Mark Green, Delores Gresham, Steve Southerland, Jim Tracy, Watson, Ken Yager and Chairman Jack Johnson.