Highlights from the Harold DePriest and Andy Berke AMA

Authored By david.morton

One week after EPB petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to preempt a state law blocking expansion of its high-speed Internet service, CEO Harold DePriest and Mayor Andy Berke participated in a Reddit AMA, or “Ask Me Anything,” to build broader support for the effort.

The online discussion was prompted by a recent Business Insider article that made the front page of Reddit. The resulting AMA spent at least eight hours there too.

Here are some of the (unedited) highlights from Friday’s discussion.

Q: How can I help free America from big ISPs?

A: Support what is being asked of the FCC currently by supporting municipal broadband!

They are currently considering an application from us to allow us to expand beyond our current boundaries and work with our neighbors.

Q: What would you say to the people that believe it’s unfair for private companies to compete with a public utility?

A: It is unfair – they have way more money than we do.

We believe that this is critical infrastructure for our community to thrive and grow. Many people might consider things like roads as critical infrastructure, but we include this as one of those things.

If the private sector won’t bring it to local communities, local communities should have the right to build it for themselves.

Q: Are you in favor of Net Neutrality?

A: YES. We strongly support it.

One other thought: if you have enough bandwidth, there’s no need to ration it.

Q: First off let me just say that the speed test result is very sexy.

Would something like this be only available to larger commercial areas with big business or would this eventually be able to spread out to residential areas as well?

A: As of today, we’ve got 4300 residential customers who have gigabit connectivity.

Q: Are there plans to reach out to tech firms across the US to see if they’d be interested in opening an office locally, given the multiple advantages?

A: There is certainly an ongoing effort to recruit both new businesses and help existing businesses grow their operations here in The Gig City.

Fortunately, the value speaks for itself and many companies who are interested in relocating reach out to us, instead of the other way around.

Q: When establishing it, what were your interactions like with comcast, time warner, etc.? Did they try to stop it from happening? If so, how?

A: There were two main interactions. Our last mayor asked big telecom if they would bring gigabit to Chattanooga – and they said NO.

Lawsuits followed.

We won.

Q: Were you able to fund the entire project with local funds or did you use some grants or federal money to get the grid system up and functioning?

A: We funded about 3/4 of the project with local funds. 1/4 of the funds came from a DOE grant from the federal stimulus package.

Q: Put some dollar amounts on this, please. Percentages don’t paint the whole picture.

A: About $73 million was grant money, and about $229 million was money that was borrowed and paid for with revenues.

Q: I have your internet at home, and I absolutely love it. Thank you for allowing me to tell Comcast where to they can stick it.

Question though, you guys also offer TV through your fiber lines. Really, the only thing I want is Comedy Central for the Daily Show. Do you have any plans to offer al carte plans on the TV so that I don’t have to pay for all 78 channels to get the one I want?

A: We support the idea of a la carte programming, but content providers unfortunately control that issue!

Q: Are there any future plans to leverage the grid for city-wide wifi?

A: We are looking at how to expand internet capacity for all Chattanoogans and use all our assets to bridge the digital divide. Wi-fi could play a part in that.

Q: My parents just retired to Chattanooga, can you please make sure they stay out of trouble?

A: Everyone who lives in Chattanooga has a pure heart and a gentle soul.