Tennessee Cable Group Maintains Opposition to Utility Plan


A Davidson County, Tenn. chancellor has rejected an attempt of the Chattanooga Electric Power Board to dismiss a state cable association challenge to the municipal utility's broadband build.

The Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association filed suit against the EPB's fiber broadband plans in 2007 in the county's Chancery Court, alleging that the broadband plan violates state law. The TCTA asserts that the broadband plan underestimates costs and overestimates revenues and thus will require illegal cross-subsidization to survive.

The EPB countered the lawsuit with a motion of its own, asserting that the suit was filed in the wrong place: the challenge should take place in Hamilton County, the location of the state comptroller's office. That state official is charged, under state law, with vetting the broadband plans of communities. For that and other procedural reasons, the EPB asked Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle to dismiss the case.

But the chancellor ruled Jan. 8 that the TCTA had filed in the correct court. State law directs plaintiffs to file suit in the county where the violation is or may take place, and that is Davidson County, home of the municipal power division.

TCTA executive director Stacey Briggs was pleased with the decision, which will allow the planned challenge of the broadband build.

The EPB is moving forward in the project, in the meantime. The utility needs to float $219 million in bonds to fund the fiber-to-the-home project, and selection of an underwriter is on the agenda this week. If the project is funded, and survives the legal challenges, the city will compete with Comcast as a telecommunications provider.