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Astroturf Group Heartland Institute Lies About Chattanooga’s EPB Fiber Network: “They Only Sell a Gig”

Heartland Institute: "By not disclosing our donors, we keep the focus on the issue."

In an eyebrow-raising exchange between the Heartland Institute’s Bruce Edward Walker and Dr. Joseph P. Fuhr, Jr., who produced a dollar-a-holler “research report” on behalf of corporate-backed astroturf group the Coalition for the New Economy (which lists the Heartland Institute’s Florida chapter as a member), the two dismiss Chattanooga’s award-winning EPB Fiber Network as providing lesser service than private competitors AT&T (also a member of the Coalition) and Comcast, in part because EPB “only sells customers a gig.”

An exchange between Heartland Institute’s Bruce Edward Walker and Dr. Joseph P. Fuhr, Jr. fundamentally misrepresents Chattanooga’s EPB Fiber network. At no point does Walker disclose Heartland Institute’s chapter in Florida is a member of the group that sponsored the production of Fuhr’s report. (1 minute)
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Walker: The government broadband services are always one step behind private industry and I’m thinking in Chattanooga, the law [sic] that they have the fastest download speeds of all government broadband in the United States, but they only offer 1Gbps service.

Fuhr: Well, one of the issues there is, well, the supply is there but they kind of have the feeling that if you build it, they will come.  Well, they haven’t come.  I mean they are charging $350 a month for that service and very few people are willing to subscribe.  People are, for the most part, happy with slower speeds.  Who really needs a gigabyte (sic) and the market shows that people don’t really need that.

Dr. Fuhr apparently does not know the difference between a “gigabyte” and a “gigabit,” so I am not sure how seriously we are supposed to take this “broadband expert.”  He also does nothing to challenge Walker’s wholly-inaccurate declaration that EPB only sells customers $350 1Gbps broadband.

In fact, most of Heartland Institute’s views about EPB broadband are a big bucket of wrong:

  1. EPB Fiber offers the fastest fiber broadband in the United States.  It is “private industry” providers Comcast and AT&T who are more than one step behind, and they refuse to sell faster service and upgrade their networks to the speeds seen in Asia and Europe that Chattanooga’s EPB customers can have today.
  2. There is no “law” involved in the delivery of broadband by EPB.  In fact, EPB fought off attempts by incumbent operators to sue the municipally-owned provider out of the broadband business, and some of those same companies are backing the “Coalition for the New Economy” in their efforts to curtail community broadband with new laws that would make networks like EPB next to impossible to provide.
  3. EPB does not only offer 1Gbps service.  Consumers and businesses are free to choose between several different speed tiers.  As any commercial entity will tell, you 1Gbps at just $350 a month is a steal compared to the prices AT&T and Comcast would charge.
  4. When EPB built their fiber network, private businesses did come.  In addition to media reports documenting expansion in Chattanooga from one Knoxville business, Amazon.com has announced hundreds of millions of dollars in new investments building and expanding distribution centers in and around Chattanooga, in part because EPB Fiber was available for their use.
  5. People are not happy with the slow speeds some providers force them to accept.  It is no surprise, however, that industry-funded astroturf groups would repeat the usual provider line that people “don’t need” fast broadband that they have no plans to deliver anyway.
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12 years ago

But here’s the next question. Even if Chattanooga did only sell 1Gbps service rather than the lower-end tiers that they also have, where else can you find 1Gbps service for $350 a month coming to your home? Certainly not with a private company.1Gbps out where I am would cost literally a home mortgage for many every month from any private company, be it Time Warner, Frontier, Verizon, Level3, Global Crossing, AT&T, TW Telecom, etc…. Highest speed offered right now until FiOS finally arrives would be 50Mbps down, 5Mbps up for $100 a month as an introductary price.

12 years ago

It really bothers me when people, without a proper technical understanding of a topic, are given a public platform to spew nonsense. This Bruce Walker fellow sounds like a total idiot in this exchange by calling “1G service” “one step behind private industry”. He clearly has no clue that it’s actually 1Gbps service. That’s just plain slander. What’s really sad are the non-technical listeners who may be swayed by this nonsense. We had the same problem here in Canada during the UBB saga, where Mirko Bibic, from Bell, was making up statistics during interviews on TV and in the newspapers.… Read more »

12 years ago

Sonic.net will do 1Gbps for $70/month in their limited FTTH service area. They are a private company too.

Admittedly they are a very awesome private company, and not at all representative of companies like ATT and Comcast.


(I have EPB’s service and LOVE it, so don’t take this as a jab at EPB in any way.)

12 years ago

Frontier bonds connections in Western New York? That’s news to me if they’re actually doing bonding and not the silly, Independent modem, up to you to bond it sort of thing.

12 years ago

Bruce Edward Walker and Dr. Joseph P. Fuhr, Jr are two frauds who no one needs to listen to.

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