Weekly Update

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As you may have seen or heard, we made a significant announcement at City Council this past Tuesday. We would like to provide every home with top quality internet service through expanding broadband by providing fiber to the home.

Providing every home with top quality internet service is as important today to the quality of life of our citizens and economic development as providing every home with electricity was 100 years ago.

During my presentation, I reviewed three issues:

  1. What is the fastest internet connection?
  2. Who is getting the fastest internet connection?
  3. What is our solution for digital equity? Everyone getting access.

What is the fastest internet connection?

From lowest to highest speed—dial-up, DSL (copper wire, like phone lines), cable (coaxial cable), fiber (fiber-optic cable).

Fiber-optic cable is the fastest internet connection available. It can provide one gigabit for all uses; it can go faster as technology improves, and it can handle more uses and users. Without question, fiber-optic cable is the best mode for improving the quality of life of our citizens and increasing our economic development opportunities in the future.

Who is getting the fastest internet connection?

According to the Federal Communications Commission, about 28 percent of Memphians are getting the fastest speed—mostly in wealthier neighborhoods.

This is not fair, and equally important, it’s not right. Why has it happened like this? Money.

To install fiber to the home, it will cost millions of dollars, and currently, businesses need to charge premium fees to recover their investment and turn a profit.

What is our solution?

With Council approval, we will amend ordinances relative to Smart City Fiber Access Systems that will:

  • Establish criteria for qualification as Smart City Fiber Access System
  • Define Smart City Fiber Access Systems
  • Authorize alternative requirements, terms, conditions, limitations, and provisions for recovering city costs incurred for the construction, maintenance, policing, management, or repair of city rights of way

The ordinance will apply to any high-speed broadband network developer that will invest in an additional 60% citywide coverage and 60% low-income coverage areas.

City Government will incentivize any interested company by reducing our costs through reductions in permitting fees and right-of-way fees. Additionally, we will streamline our process to allow a company to get to work faster. We are also putting our own skin in the game.


  • $15 million—American Rescue Plan Act
  • $7 million—Accelerate Memphis


  • $15 million for management of dark fiber for City government use for 40 years
  • $3.5 million for city staffing for implementation
  • $3.5 million for connections for digital equity

And they best part is—we have our first company ready to get to work on this. Blue Suede Network in partnership with Meridium is planning to invest $700 million in Memphis to build out the fiber-optic infrastructure required and has agreed to provide fiber to the home and businesses of at least 85 percent of Memphis.

What will this mean for Memphis?

When we do this, broadband penetration will: 

  • Reach every corner of the city
  • Provide high-speed, quality broadband where it doesn’t yet exist
  • Improve digital access in long under-served Memphis communities while enabling us to realize our Smart Memphis plan
  • More than double usage amongst all households
  • Become one of the most connected cities in America
  • Improve public safety with the ability to install thousands of high-quality cameras connected to fiber throughout our city

I am extremely excited about this project and what it will mean for Memphis and our citizens. By doing this, we will bring more competition to the market, and bring better, faster, and more reliable internet service to our community, especially to those who need it most.

Working on the railroad: Earlier this year, I joined Nashville and Atlanta, and we partnered with the City of Chattanooga on its application for the Sunbelt-Atlantic Connector. This project would link existing Amtrak service in Memphis to new and expanded routes in Nashville, Chattanooga, and Atlanta. If we can pull this off, it will be giant step forward to connect Tennessee’s largest population and economic centers to the national passenger rail network in Atlanta and the City of New Orleans route in Memphis.

Combined, the four major nodes of the corridor, Atlanta, Chattanooga, Nashville, and Memphis, represent the economic engine of the South and a flourishing destination for education, business, government, culture, and tourism.  These four key nodes are home to more than 10 million residents and 6.7 million jobs.

As you may know, Congressman Cohen has long advocated for expanded passenger rail for Memphis at the federal levels. The recent Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) included one of the Congressman’s bills that created the Corridor ID Program to help guide intercity passenger rail development throughout the country and create a pipeline of intercity passenger rail projects ready for implementation. When the BIL passed, State Representative Antonio Parkinson helped to ensure the Memphis to Nashville route was included as a proposed corridor.

Thanks to all those involved, and let’s keep our fingers crossed that we can make this a reality.

2023 HR Impact Awards: Each year, the Memphis Business Journal takes time to recognize those that are making a difference in our community through its HR Impact Awards. One of this year’s honorees is our own Chief Human Resources Officer, Fonda Fouche.

Fonda has been with the City for 27 years, and became our CHRO in July after seven years as talent management officer. Congrats Fonda! Thanks for all you do!

Enjoy your weekend! 


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