“Let’s do this!” Mayor Indya Kincannon rallied the city council to approve a resolution authorizing the Knoxville Utilities Board to provide broadband services within its subscriber base. The vote was 8-0 with council member Andrew Roberto abstaining.
Roberto had argued for a postponement until August to make time to hold a council workshop, but his motion failed. Numerous members of the community spoke in support of the resolution, cheered on (if not organized) by Cynthia Moxley of Moxley Carmichael Communications.
The opposition was sparse, headlined by a Comcast official from Washington, D.C., and a lobbyist from the Tennessee Broadband Association.
State law enables a utility like KUB to provide broadband and Chattanooga has been doing it effectively for some time. Background here.
“It’s time to move forward,” said council member Tommy Smith.
Council member Lauren Rider said Tuesday’s action would put Knoxville at the head of the line for possible federal stimulus funding. “We’re shovel-ready.”
But the Rev. Dr. Jerry Askew iced the cake. He chairs KUB’s seven-member board of directors which voted to move forward with broadband. KUB explains its program here.
Askew effectively refuted Roberto’s call for a council workshop by saying the KUB board already had done that. “Our mayor has appointed every member of the KUB board; you (city council) have approved every board member. We have done the due diligence.”
He continued: “This is a serious business decision, but it’s also a heart issue. Equity has been at the center of our decision.” He said the Covid pandemic exposed what we already knew – those without access to the internet are severely disadvantaged. “We have children falling behind, seniors who could not access telemedicine, businesses that couldn’t do business, and people who were cut off from worshipping opportunities – their (source of) hope.”
Little remained to be said, although the council and guests talked until after 11 p.m.
Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.