AT&T's Stephenson delivers on promise to bring U-verse to Chattanooga

It took two years, and a promise from AT&T(NYSE: T) CEO Randall Stephenson in May, to get AT&T's U-verse rolled out in Chattanooga. The company began offering the IPTV service today, part of its continuing expansion in Tennessee.

In May, at the company's annual shareholder's meeting in Chattanooga, Stephenson told attendees: "I had dinner with your mayor, and because of his commitment to open markets and competition, Chattanooga looks like an attractive place to invest capital."

AT&T will go head-to-head with Comcast, the nation's largest MSO, and existing fiber network operator EPB, a branch of EPB Power, Chattanooga's electric company.

U-verse is being expanded in Tennessee thanks to The Competitive Cable and Video Services Act of 2008, HB 1421. The law provides an environment that encourages new video providers, such as AT&T Tennessee, to invest in Tennessee to compete against incumbent cable providers. Tennessee was among a dozen states AT&T lobbied in an effort to open up the video franchise system on a statewide basis. The company spent a ton of money in the Volunteer State, in fact, it was one of the most extensive lobbying efforts in the state's history, with at least 20 lobbyists putting $180,000 into lawmakers', their PACs' or party's campaign chests.

The regulations, signed into law in 2008, allows AT&T to operate under a statewide franchise agreement rather than under local agreements.

Consumer activist groups have been less-than-thrilled with the early rollouts of U-verse in other parts of the state, like Nashville in December 2008, and Memphis, which saw service arrive last summer, with little of the pricing competition AT&T has promised during its lobbying. In October, U-verse launched service in East Tennessee with a rollout in Knoxville.

"This investment by AT&T is great news for Chattanooga, as it brings exciting new technology to our community," said Rep. Gerald McCormick. "As Tennessee policymakers, our goal was to increase investment throughout the state and give consumers more choices and innovative new services and I'm honored to help AT&T celebrate this launch."

For more:
- see this release
- and this Chattanooga Times Free Press article

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