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BLTC reaches deal with AT&T
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A compromise has been reached to essentially end the fight by rural phone companies against an AT&T-sponsored bill in the General Assembly which threatened to run many of the small companies out of business.“It’s not what we had hoped for, but it was the best we could get,” said Levoy Knowles, chairman of Telecom Management Services which includes the local Ben Lomand Telephone Cooperative. “It’s significantly better than what we were looking at originally.”Ben Lomand and the other 16 rural telecommunication companies in Tennessee had been fighting tooth and nail in the state legislature to stop a bid by AT&T and other larger carriers to have the state significantly lower the access fees they pay to use Ben Lomand lines. The smaller companies maintained they were the ones which paid to build the infrastructure and lowering the amount they are paid for access would be a major financial hit.Opponents of the measure admitted AT&T had enough votes to likely pass the bill causing an immediate loss of nearly $2 million in revenue to Ben Lomand alone, therefore the agreement was reached which will slow the pace of the lower rates.“Our legislators, Charles Curtiss, Judd Matheny, Bill Harman and Eric Stewart, were vigorously fighting against the bill in Nashville and we had a lot of subscribers voicing their displeasure about the bill,” said Knowles, noting the fight led to the compromise.