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Hawkins-based HolstonConnect files FCC complaint against Nexstar

STAFF REPORT • Mar 11, 2019 at 12:30 PM

ROGERSVILLE — The Holston Electric Cooperative subsidiary currently installing broadband and cable TV wiring in unserved sections of Hawkins and Hamblen counties filed a federal complaint last week against cable provider Nexstar Media Group.

HEC issued a press release Friday stating that HolstonConnect has filed a Federal Communications Commission retransmission consent complaint against Nexstar, one of the largest broadcast television companies in the United States.

The complaint, which was filed last Monday, alleges that Nexstar violated FCC rules by failing to negotiate in good faith toward an agreement enabling HolstonConnect to deliver essential local broadcast TV content to HolstonConnect’s “triple play” customers.

HolstonConnect’s complaint states that Nexstar is demanding exorbitant rates and carriage of multiple unwanted channels while refusing to engage in meaningful negotiations.

“Without prompt and forceful remedial action by the FCC, HolstonConnect’s ability to deploy gigabit infrastructure and services in rural East Tennessee will be hamstrung,” HolstonConnect told the FCC on Monday.

Holston Electric Cooperative’s CEO, Jimmy Sandlin, said, “When we asked for rate concessions that would put us at a level playing field with other operators in our market, Nexstar’s negotiator continued to demand significantly higher rates and said, ‘It’s just TV.’ To our customers and our community, access to high-speed broadband is a lot more than ‘just TV.’ This is critical infrastructure for our businesses and our residents. Access to modern communications infrastructure is to rural America today what access to electricity was in the 1930s.”

HEC is based in Rogersville and currently serves approximately 30,500 customers with electricity in a territory that is rural and sparsely populated.

Its board approved plans to deploy a state of the art, “fiber to the home” communications network as an upgrade to its electric grid and launched a communications company, HolstonConnect, to offer triple play services (video, voice and Internet) to HEC’s entire service territory.

Holston’s service territory includes 10,000 customers who currently have no wired access to high speed Internet. HolstonConnect is a recipient of federal Connect America Fund Phase II funding in support of its development of broadband infrastructure and services in the East Tennessee region.

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