AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. (credit: AT&T)

A Republican state senator in Tennessee is fed up with AT&T and other private Internet service providers that are trying to stop the spread of municipal broadband.
“We’re talking about AT&T,” Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) said at a rally of business owners, residents, and local officials in the state Capitol, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported yesterday. “They’re the most powerful lobbying organization in this state by far… Don’t fall for the argument that this is a free market versus government battle. It is not. AT&T is the villain here, and so are the other people and cable.”
The battle over municipal broadband in Chattanooga and surrounding towns is among the most prominent nationwide. Tennessee state law has prevented the Chattanooga electric utility—which also provides broadband—from expanding to adjacent communities that lack fast, cheap Internet access. Chattanooga petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to preempt that state law, and the FCC granted the request, using its authority to promote competition in local markets by removing barriers to infrastructure investment.
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