By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog
NASHVILLE — Officials with Clarksville’s city-owned Internet announced Monday, April Fool’s Day, that all of their 15,000 customers, many of whom are business owners, had been kicked offline — again.
Clarksville Department of Electricity officials, despite the timing, weren’t pulling any gags about problems with their Lightband service.
Lightband customers, already furious about a massive and lengthy outage only one week earlier, likely wouldn’t have laughed even if the announcement were a hoax.
As before, many irate customers whipped out their smart phones and took CDE to task on the public utility’s Facebook page.
But one poster, Jonathan Harrison, had a constructive suggestion.
Indeed, Clarksville-Montgomery Public Library Director Martha Hendricks confirmed to Tennessee Watchdog her library uses Charter, a private competitor, and anyone who needed Internet service was free to come there.
“CDE Lightband does not have a stellar reputation at this point, in my opinion, and is a relatively new service,” Hendricks wrote in an e-mail to Tennessee Watchdog, adding she didn’t want anyone to view this as an endorsement for Charter.
The library, Hendricks said, is not entirely county funded — therefore, library officials have the option to use whichever Internet service they wish.
“Perhaps in the future, we will look at them again if and when things improve — this is the second major outage for CDE lately that has affected the county’s ability to do work.”
But other county and city agencies, including the police and sheriff’s department, use Lightband, according to Jamie Dexter, Natalie Hall, Elizabeth Black and Jennifer Rawls, who serve as spokesmen and women for those agencies.
They all said that Monday’s Internet outage didn’t impair their duties as they still had access to phone services.
CDE spokeswoman Christy Batts told Tennessee Watchdog the public utility wasn’t to blame.
“This is the first time since that time frame that we have had back-to-back outages of this significance,” Batts said.
“It took out everyone on our system. In both instances, it was from connections to the Internet with third party providers that we had no control over.”
Lightband customer Kate Matties, who said the outage caused problems at her business, seemingly isn’t so ready to accept that explanation.
“The fiber connection is fast — when it works,” Matties said. “It’s like owning a Ferrari that’s broken down two days a week. If it doesn’t get you where you need to go, when you need to go there, what’s the use?”
As Tennessee Watchdog reported last week, several Clarksville business owners lost a lot of money last week when their government-owned Internet went down.
Things got so heated that CDE Lightband officials warned their own Internet customers to stop posting abusive language on its official Facebook page.
The business owners are generally smaller in scale when compared to the multi-million dollar businesses CDE hoped to serve in an industrial park outside city lines.
Currently, CDE officials can’t legally expand their government-owned Internet outside the city.
Rep. Joe Pitts, D-Clarksville, told Tennessee Watchdog last week he had postponed a bill that would have allowed such an expansion, at least until next year’s Tennessee General Assembly session.
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