Why a Tennessee town has the fastest internet

A photograph of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Image copyright Thinkstock

A review of the best commentary on and around the world...

Today's must-read

The south-eastern Tennessee town of Chattanooga has some of the fastest internet connection speeds in the world, thanks to a fibre-optic network installed by the government-owned electric company, EPB.

The town, with a 2012 population of just more than 171,000, has used its internet speeds of over 1 gigabit per second to attract new businesses, including five venture capital funds with 2014 investment capital of more than $50m (£30m), according to the Guardian.

Chattanooga's success is a testament to the power of government infrastructure investment, writes Daily Kos blogger Steven D.

It's also, he says, a threat to the private telecommunications monopolies, which are content to offer lower levels of service, "slowly draining the lifeblood out of our nation even as they steal whatever is left in our pocketbook".

He contends that private-sector malaise and greed are part of the reason why US internet speeds currently ranks behind 30 countries, including South Korea, Romania and most of Europe.

"Uruguayans have better internet service than citizens of the 'greatest nation on earth,'" he writes. "Pretty damn embarrassing, if not a big surprise."

Companies like Cox and Comcast are trying to prevent public utilities like EPB from competing directly with private internet providers, he says.

The companies argue that government-supported entities have an inherent competitive advantage over private businesses when they succeed and are a drain on government coffers when they fail.

Currently 20 states have laws placing limits on municipal broadband networks, according to Ars Technica, including strict prohibitions in Texas and Nevada.

Private telecommunications companies are also fighting to prevent Federal Communications Commission regulations that would make it easier for municipalities to circumvent these state rules.

"I have said before that I believe the FCC has the power - and I intend to exercise that power - to pre-empt state laws that ban competition from community broadband," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in May.


Former US politicians are Gazprombank's newest lobbyists - Former US Senators John Breaux and Trent Lott have signed on to lobby the US government for the Russia financial giant Gazprombank, which faces sanctions from Western nations due to the Russian government's involvement in Ukraine.

As a senator, writes New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait, Mr Breaux had a reputation for being a pragmatist - and that is once again on display here.

"After all," Chait contends, "what could be more pragmatic than recognizing the blunt reality that Russia is way stronger and richer than Ukraine?"


The politics of Uber - A German court has banned Uber from operating throughout the nation, holding that the law doesn't allow unlicensed vehicle operators to provide rides for profit. This is just another attempt by taxi operators around the world to restrict competition, writes Quartz's Tim Fernholz.

Uber will likely adapt quickly to the ruling, he says, just as it has in other areas - such as New York City - where licensing requirements were initially used to block the company.

In the end, he says, German taxi drivers and labour unions should look at the arrival of Uber as an opportunity to boost the car service industry as a whole. Uber could end up being a blessing, he concludes, not a curse.


Hong Kong's sham democracy proposal - The guidelines issued by the Chinese government for Hong Kong's 2017 chief executive election are so restrictive that it effectively gives Beijing control over who can run for the top office, writes former Hong Kong legislator Margaret Ng in the New York Times.

While some Hong Kong officials seem to be endorsing the plan as at least a semblance of representative government, Ng says that accepting it will "allow the Chinese government to assume complete control over Hong Kong's affairs".

Pro-democracy supporters should stand firm, she says, and reject a proposal that is even worse than the status quo.


Japan love is going too far - Narendra Modi's election as India's new prime minister has ushered in a new era of warm relation with Japan, writes Bloomberg View columnist Pankaj Mishra.

While there are economic benefits to increased trade and investment, Mishra says, there's a deeper reason behind the closer ties.

"Since the 19th Century, Hindu nationalists have venerated Japan as the paradigmatic Asian society that preserves its traditional virtues while also developing industrial and military strength and inculcating patriotism among its citizens," he writes.

Mr Modi will learn, Mishra says, that Japan has made too many mistakes to merit imitation and that much of the nation's success was a result of unique global conditions and not a sustainable economic policy.

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Middle East commentators write about the rise of the Islamic State (IS) and what it means for regional stability.

"With its attacks on Islamic State, America has returned to Iraq with unclear and non-transparent objectives, which it describes as a long-term policy to confront Islamic State. These plans will accelerate Iraq's disintegration." - Nosratollah Tajik in the Iranian newspaper Shargh.

"Thank you Islamic State for your foolish sectarian incitement. Who believes the Gulf States would have taken serious steps to combat terrorism if Islamic State had not appeared?" - Shamlan Youssef al-Issa in Kuwait's Al-Watan.‎

Have you found an interesting opinion piece about global issues that we missed? Share it with us via email at echochambers (at) bbc.co.uk.

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