KUB polls interest in public broadband

Sandra ClarkOur Town Leaders

Knoxville Utilities Board is surveying customers to determine interest in public broadband. And Mayor Indya Kincannon is cheering KUB on.

After I got a survey email, I contacted both. Here’s what they say for the record:

“KUB has been asked in the past to consider getting into the telecommunications business,” said Leslye Hartsell, KUB director, external affairs.

“We have declined to do so based on a number of factors, but the landscape has changed and KUB determined that a review of that decision was warranted. Many of our neighboring utilities are in this business, and Mayor Kincannon has expressed interest in KUB pursuing this service in our area as well.

“In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the fact that many in our community still do not have access to broadband. However, launching a broadband business would be an expensive effort that would impact our financial plans. Community support will be an important element of our decision-making process, and the survey currently underway will help us to gauge our customers’ interests in this effort.”

Kincannon said exploring public broadband “is a commitment I made on the campaign trail, and I appreciate KUB’s leadership and responsiveness in studying how it can play a role in expanding access to internet for all of Knoxville’s resident.”

Later, in an email, Kincannon said, “As our schools attempt to re-open during a pandemic, it is abundantly clear that access to high-speed internet is no longer a luxury, but a necessity, similar to electricity and running water.

“Many communities have moved to public broadband to make sure internet access is equitable and affordable. I fully support KUB’s efforts to explore this option for our community.”

Chattanooga was an early leader in city-operated broadband. How’s that working for them? We’ll be checking. Meanwhile, learn more about how the program works here.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of KnoxTNToday.com

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