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Content tagged with "tullahoma"
Tullahoma Thrives With Fiber Network, Plus Straight Talk on the Pandemic - Community Broadband Bits Episode 407
We last spoke to Brian Skelton, president of Tullahoma Utilities Authority, in 2013 for episode 54 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Since then, the Tennessee city's municipal fiber network, LightTube, has continued to offer Internet access, voice, and video services, attracting new businesses to the region.
For this episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, Christopher and Brian review the network's nearly 12-year-long history. Brian shares some of LightTube's early struggles and describes how the network has found success over the years, especially in promoting local economic development. He explains how a call center recently decided to locate in Tullahoma, due in part to the municipal fiber network, bringing 200 jobs to the city.
The pair also talk about how LightTube is adapting in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Brian says that the fiber network is holding up well, despite increased demand from families now stuck at home. Tullahoma Utilities Authority has suspended disconnections for non-payment during the public health crisis, but it has not lowered costs for broadband subscriptions. Brian shares how it can be difficult for a small provider to offer free or discounted services while continuing to cover its own costs.
To close out the interview, Brian relates his advice for other cities that are considering investing in broadband. While each community must make its own decisions, he's broadly optimistic about the potential for success in many cases.
This show is 25 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed.
We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
Image of Jackson Street, Tullahoma, Tennessee, courtesy of Brian Stansberry under Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) Unported license.
LightTUBe Attracts 200 New Jobs to Tullahoma, Tennessee
When a company processes 180,000 medical claims each year and prides itself on embracing high tech in medical care, access to fiber connectivity is a no-brainer. When a city like Tullahoma offers reliable, fast, and affordable services via their municipal fiber network minus the expense of a big city, it makes sense to bring the company to the town. EnableComp is joining need and solution while creating new jobs in Tullahoma, home of LightTUBe.
Attracted by the Light
EnableComp, headquartered in Franklin, Tennessee, now employs about 240 people who work for the company processing medical claims. Over the next five years, EnableComp will add 200 more positions, all in Tullahoma. They will invest an additional $1 million to develop an office facility.
According to Tullahoma Area Economic Development Corp executive director Thom Robinson, LightTUBe was “a key reason” for the company’s decision to expand in the city of about 19,000 people.
Tullahoma Mayor Lane Curlee said:
“This announcement continues the exciting growth that we are seeing in Tullahoma, and I want to thank EnableComp for their investment in our City. This project brings a diversity of economic growth to our area, and I know the strong development of our infrastructure, including our state-of-the-art Fiber Optic system has prepared us to welcome this company, as well as others that may follow."
EnableComp’s investment in Tullahoma is the latest in a string of economic development results that relate to LightTUBe. Before the city invested in the network, job growth in Tullahoma lagged behind the rest of the state, but within two years after the city began offering broadband, that statistic changed. Job growth in the city doubled Tennessee’s statewide rate.
Tennessee Senator Tries Again With Bill to Restore Local Authority
Senator Janice Bowling has become a broadband hero in rural Tennessee and on the pages of MuniNetworks.org. Year after year, she introduces legislation aimed at expanding local authority to allow communities the ability to improve connectivity. She’s back this year with several bills aimed at expanding fiber in rural areas.
Seeking Better Connectivity…That’s All
Like Bowling’s past legislation, related bills SB 489, SB 490, and SB 494 grant municipal electric utilities the authority “to provide telecommunications service, including broadband service” and specifies that they can do so beyond their electric service area. This change in the current law would allow places like her own community of Tullahoma to expand to serve neighboring towns. There is no fiscal impact from the Senator’s bills.
Bowling has seen firsthand how access to fiber optic infrastructure, such as Tullahoma’s LightTUBe, lifts economic development, improves educational opportunities, and helps a local community reduce costs. The city has thrived since investing in the network in 2009, while many of the communities that have had to rely on subpar service from the larger incumbents have limped along.
SB 489 also extends authority for municipalities to collaboration for telecommunications and broadband service, to ease any uncertainty about public-private partnerships.
TN Sen. Bolling Explains Her Proposal: Share This Video
Tennessee State Senator Janice Bowling, a Republican from Tullahoma, has once again introduced legislation that would help bring high-quality connectivity to rural residents and businesses. The bill is not complicated and would allow municipal electric utilities that offer broadband connectivity to expand beyond their electric service area. In a video from 2015 Senator Bowling takes a few minutes to explain her proposal - to eliminate the restriction and allow places like Tullahoma, Chattanooga, and Clarksville to serve neighboring communities.
This year, the bill that eliminates the restriction is SB 1058 and its House companion is HB 0970 from Representative Dan Howell. For now, her bill is in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee waiting to be heard. Sen. Bolling has also introduced similar bill that allows municipal electric utilities to offer telecommunications service with no geographical limitations.
Senator Bolling gets it. She understands that the people of her district and the rest of rural Tennessee need high-quality connectivity to keep pace with areas that already have such access. We’d like to see more legislators like her who put the needs of their constituents before the interests of the big cable and telephone companies.
In the video Senator Bolling describes why the bill, which she has introduced several times, has not passed. She explains what the bill does legally and practically, and she gives a frank assessment of what the situation is now in many rural areas of her state. Even though the video is from 2015, her comments are still relevant.
The video is short and to the point - only 4:20 - check it out and share.
TN Bills Worth Watching, Supporting
While Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s “Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act” has been in the news, several other Legislators have introduced companion bills earlier this month that deserve attention.
A Few Gems
SB 1058 and HB 0970, from Senator Janice Bowling and Representative Dan Howell, would allow municipal electric utilities, such as Chattanooga’s EPB, Tullahoma Utilities Board, or Jackson Energy Authority to expand beyond their electric service area. SB 1045 and HB 1410 reclaims local authority for municipalities that want to offer telecommunications service either alone or with a partner.
HB 0970 has been assigned to the House Business and Utilities Committee; SB 1058 was referred to the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee.
Bowling has also introduced SB 1045, a bill that allows municipal electric utilities and electric cooperatives the ability to offer telecommunications services either on their own or with private sector partners. SB 1045 and it’s companion, HB 1410, sponsored by Terri Lynn Weaver in the House, specifies that there are to be no geographic limits to the service area. SB 1045 and HB 1410 are also in the same committees as SB 1058 and HB 0970.
Correcting Existing Problems
The EPB challenged restrictive state law in 2015; the FCC determined that the law was inconsistent with federal goals. The agency preempted both Tennessee and North Carolina's laws that inhibit municipal electric utilities from expanding. When Tennessee and North Carolina appealed the FCC decision, however, the appellate court determined that that states had the right to impose those laws on local communities and reversed the preemption.
New Resource: Map, List Of Citywide FTTH Munis
It’s no small feat to plan, deploy, and operate a municipal citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network, but communities are doing it. We’ve put together a Citywide Municipal FTTH Networks list and a map, with quick facts at your fingertips. If your community is considering such an investment, this list can offer a starting point on discovering similarly situated locations to study.
The list is divided by state and each state heading offers a description of any barriers that exist and a link to the statute in question. Under each community, we also included relevant links such as to the provider’s website, coverage on MuniNetworks.org, and reports or resources about the network.
We used four basic criteria to put a community on our list and map:
- The network must cover at least 80% of a city.
- A local government (city, town, or county) owns the infrastructure.
- It is a Fiber-to-the-Home network.
- It is in the United States.
Share the list far and wide and if you know of a community network that meets our criteria that we missed, please let us know. Contact H. Trostle at email@example.com to suggest additions.
Tullahoma’s LighTUBe Connects 3,500th Customer
Tullahoma Utilities Board (TUB) recently celebrated its 3,500th Internet customer, rewarding the lucky LightTUBe subscriber with a $350 bill credit. TUB has offered Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) triple-play services to the Tennessee town of 19,000 since 2009.
LightTUBe now boasts an estimated market penetration rate of 39 percent, despite competition from publicly-traded incumbents Charter, Comcast, and AT&T. LightTUBe delivers $90 per month symmetrical gigabit connectivity (1,000 Megabits per second), so upload and download speeds are equally fast. LightTUBe also offers other affordable options and has repeatedly lowered prices and increased speeds.
Lighting the Way for Tennessee
TUB successfully stimulated economic development with its LightTUBe service, attracting businesses like J2 to Tullahoma. It has also enabled smart metering and other cost-saving measures that are a boon to the local community. Yet, Tennessee state law preempts public utility companies from providing Internet services to communities beyond their electrical grid. With little meaningful competition, neighboring communities have no alternative to incumbent providers.
Speedy Holiday Gift in Tullahoma
Tullahoma Utilities Board LightTUBe customers are once again receiving a special holiday gift via the municipal fiber network. As of December 5th, subscribers got a boost in speeds with no boost in price.
From the LightTUBe Facebook page:
More good news is on the way after the first of the year. According to General Manager Brian Skelton, rates for the two highest tiers will decrease. Symmetrical gigabit Internet service will drop from $99.95 per month to $89.95 per month and 200 Megabits per second (Mbps) symmetrical Internet service will decrease from $79.95 per month to $74.95 per month.
Unlike the big corporate providers that increase rates whenever the opportunity arises, Tullahoma prefers to increase speeds for free and sometimes even lower rates. Publicly owned networks focus on serving the community rather than maximizing profits; the decision to increase speeds and lower prices comports with their mission.
Happy Holidays, LightTUBe subscribers!
Tennessee Fiber Optic Communities - Video on Gig Freedom
In a video calling for "Broadband Equity," the Tennessee Fiber Optic Communities have released a video explaining why communities must have their local Internet choice restored.
We encourage you to Like and Follow their campaign on Facebook.
Center for Public Integrity and Reveal Radio Get Into the Trenches of Local Choice
The Center for Public Integrity has followed the local choice debate closely. Their team has travelled to Tennessee and North Carolina to talk to lawmakers, visited communities seeking high-speed networks, and dug deep into the source of influential campaign funds. Allan Holmes and his team have assembled a collection of articles and audio that offers the right amount of history, backstory, and anecdotes to properly understand these issues.
Holmes published an article last August that took a deep look at telecommunications laws at the state level. Along the way, he spoke with State Senator Janice Bowling from Tullahoma. MuniNetworks.org readers know that the community is known for LightTUBe, the fiber network offering an oasis of high quality connectivity in an otherwise broadband desert. At the time, the Wilson and Chattanooga petitions were still fresh but Tennessee communities had long dealt with the problem of poor connectivity from incumbents. From the August article:
“We don’t quarrel with the fact that AT&T has shareholders that it has to answer to,” Bowling said with a drawl while sitting in the spacious wood-paneled den of her log-cabin-style home. “That’s fine, and I believe in capitalism and the free market. But when they won’t come in, then Tennesseans have an obligation to do it themselves.”
Holmes wrote about economic development in Tullahoma, a factor that seems directly tied to the presence of its municipal network:
Employment in Tullahoma lagged statewide job growth before theLightTUBe was turned on. Since the recession ended in 2009, two years after the city began offering broadband, the city has outpaced job growth in Tennessee. The city added 3,598 jobs from April 2009 to April 2014, a 1.63 percent annual growth rate, about double the statewide rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.