Tag: "tennessee"

Posted June 8, 2017 by lgonzalez

As Newport Utilities (NU) in Tennessee moves forward with a plan to offer Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) connectivity, they are holding public informational meetings. At a recent meeting, locals received the plan positively, reinforcing that idea that NU is on the right track.

The network will be funded by a $3.5 million interdepartmental loan from the utility’s electric system in addition to a USDA loan. The first phase of the build out will connect just under 6,800 residential and approximately 1,200 business premises. It will also bring electric substations, the city of Newport, emergency services, and local schools on to the new infrastructure. The second phase will continue to connect remaining NU’s service area.

Why Are THEY Here Anyway?

In recent weeks, anti-muni groups from Knoxville and other areas have targeted the project, raising questions among the community; NU officials wanted to address the misinformation directly. Chair of the board Roland Dykes said:

“There has been alot of publicity, negative and positive in the community and we wanted to do this to make sure everybody understood what we are trying to do, and what broadband will mean for our community.” 

WNPC reported that “virtually all of the attendees were positive about the plan, because many areas of Cocke County are without Internet service.” WNPC also noted that the only unfavorable opinion was from an attendee who refused to answer when asked if he was backed by the cable industry. That individual doesn’t live in Cocke County.

Raising Speeds, Holding Down Rates...A Muni Tradition

A former NU employee who is now with the Morristown Utility Board spoke at the meeting, describing how the publicly owned network attracts businesses to Morristown. In addition to boosting economic development, MUS FiberNet brings fast, affordable, reliable connectivity to residents and businesses in the MUS service area. They started serving premises in 2006 with FTTH and have never raised rates, even though they HAVE...

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Posted June 6, 2017 by christopher

One of the very many treats at Mountain Connect this year was a keynote from Chattanooga EPB's Director of Fiber Technology, Colman Keane. (Watch it here.) After discussing their remarkable successes, we snagged an interview with him (he was last on the show for episode 175).

We discuss whether or not Chattanooga is an appropriate role model for other cities considering a municipal fiber investment and the general viability of citywide approaches in the current market.

We also get an update on Chattanooga's financials, their enthusiasm on connecting well over 90,000 subscribers, and how the smart grid deployment is creating tremendous value for both the utility and the wider community.

For more about Chattanooga, take a look at our ongoing coverage. We've been following the network and the community since 2009.

Read the transcript of the show.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 23 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Posted June 6, 2017 by lgonzalez

In addition to studying how and where local communities examine the potential for publicly owned Internet networks, we’ve looked at rates over time in select areas of the country. We recently put together a comparison of historical rates for municipal networks in Tennessee. Our findings are consistent with what we’ve seen all over the country - publicly owned networks don't hesitate to raise speeds while keeping rates affordable. We've documented the data on our fact sheet: Municipal Networks: Speed Increases & Affordable Prices.

Not Like The Big Guys

National providers make it a habit to periodically raise rates and over time those increases add up. They’ve done it so often, subscribers have come to expect it on a regular basis. Price increases don’t usually include a speed increase. With no need to appease shareholders, officials in charge of publicly owned networks can set rates at a level that allow a network to be sustainable rather than rates that maximize profits.

Publicly owned networks have increased speeds for subscribers, often with little or no fanfare other than quietly alerting subscribers to their improved service. Places Chattanooga’s EPB, Morristown’s FiberNET, and BET in Bristol are in a much different habit than Comcast or AT&T - they increase speeds with no increase in price. Other Tennessee communities have increased speeds significantly with only slight price increases over years of service.

Speeds, Rates Then And Now

On our fact sheet, we include prices for the basic tiers now and when the network began offering services. We also compare the basic speeds when the network began serving the community and today. The results reflect how publicly owned networks focus on providing fast, affordable connectivity to subscribers rather than collecting profit from customers.

Some results may surprise you:

  • Morristown has never increased prices for their standard speed offering. It’s always been a solid $34.95 each month. The speed has increased to 50 Mbps, an 8 fold increase!
  • Bristol has operated a municipal network since 2008. The standard speed is 5X faster than when the city started building the network. (With no price increase.)
  • Chattanooga has not raised their prices since...
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Posted June 1, 2017 by lgonzalez

For the second week in row, our staff has felt compelled to address a misleading report about municipal networks. In order to correct the errors and incorrect assumptions in yet another anti-muni publication, we’ve worked with Next Century Cities to publish Correcting Community Fiber Fallacies: Yoo Discredits U Penn, Not Municipal Networks.

Skewed Data = Skewed Results

Professor Christopher S. Yoo and Timothy Pfenninger from the Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition (CTIC) at the University of Pennsylvania Law School recently released "Municipal Fiber in the United States: An Empirical Assessment of Financial Performance." The report attempts to analyze the financial future of several citywide Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) municipal networks in the U.S. by applying a Net Present Value (NPV) calculation approach. They applied their method to some well-known networks, including Chattanooga's EPB Fiber Optics; Greenlight in Wilson, North Carolina; and Lafayette, Louisiana's LUS Fiber. Unfortunately, their initial data was flawed and incomplete, which yielded a report fraught with credibility issues.

So Many Problems 

In addition to compromising data validity, the authors of the study didn’t consider the wider context of municipal networks, which goes beyond the purpose of NPV, which is determining the promise of a financial investment.

Some of the more expansive problems with this report (from our Executive Summary):

  • They erred in claiming Wilson, Lafayette, and Chattanooga have balloon payments at the end of the term. They have corrected that error in a press release. Other errors, such as confusing the technologies used by at least two networks, are less important but decrease the study’s credibility.
  • Several of the cities dispute the accuracy of the numbers used in the calculations for their communities.
  • The Net Present Value calculation is inappropriate in this context for...
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Posted May 26, 2017 by Nick

S&P Global Market Intelligence - May 26, 2017

Hard Data on Municipal Broadband Networks

Written by Sarah Barry James

There is a dearth of good data around municipal broadband networks, and the data that is available raises some tough questions.

A new study from University of Pennsylvania Law School Professor Christopher Yoo and co-author Timothy Pfenninger, a law student, identified 88 municipal fiber projects across the country, 20 of which report the financial results of their broadband operations separately from the results of their electric power operations. Municipal broadband networks are owned and operated by localities, often in connection with the local utility.

...

Yet Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, argued that Yoo's study did not present an entirely accurate or up-to-date picture of U.S. municipal networks.

"When I looked at the 20 communities that he studied — and his methodology for picking those is totally reasonable and he did not cherry pick them — I was not surprised at his results because many of those networks are either in very small communities … and the others were often in the early years of a buildout during a period of deep recession," Mitchell said.

As an example, Mitchell pointed to Electric Power Board's municipal broadband network in Chattanooga, Tenn. — one of the five networks Yoo identified as having positive cash flow but at such a low level that it would take more than 100 years to recover project costs.

...

In fact, without the revenue generated by the fiber-optics business, EPB estimated it would have had to raise electric rates by 7% this year.

According to Mitchell, Yoo's study captured the Chattanooga network when it was still "small and growing," but misses "what's going to happen for the rest of the life of the network, which I think is the more important part."

...

Read the...

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Posted May 25, 2017 by Nick

Telecompetitor - May 25, 2017

Municipal broadband networks do not have a strong financial track record, according to an analysis conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition. The municipal broadband financial analysis, which looked at 20 municipal fiber projects, found that only nine were cash-flow positive and that of those, seven would need more than 60 years to break even.

...

An Opposing View

Municipal network advocate Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, pointed to several flaws in the Penn Law municipal broadband financial analysis.

He noted, for example that a substantial portion of the 20 networks studied were “early in the process and very small.” He also argued that the 2010-2014 study period may have biased the results, as that period included a recession and subscribership for some of the networks has increased substantially since 2014. He noted, for example, that EPB’s broadband network in Chattanooga had about 50,000 to 55,000 subscribers in 2014 but has now hit the 90,000 mark.

The Penn Law authors’ approach was “not the proper way to measure these networks,” said Mitchell in a phone call with Telecompetitor. The analysis “doesn’t take into account jobs created or the impact on the municipal budget,” he said.

He argued, for example, that a municipality that previously paid $1 million annually for connectivity might instead pay itself $500,000 for connectivity on the municipal network.

...

Read the full story here.

Posted May 17, 2017 by KateSvitavsky

Congratulations to Chattanooga’s EPB Fiber, which in April exceeded 90,000 subscribers and contributed to lower power rates for all EPB customers.

Savings For Everyone

While the increased subscribership is cause for celebration, an equally important chapter in the story is that EPB lowered power rates by 7 percent as a result of upgrading to a “smart grid.” All EPB customers may not subscribe to EPB Fiber's Internet access, but all electric customers benefit from lower electric rates. Chattanooga’s fiber network operates as the main mode of communications for the grid, while also providing Internet services to businesses and residents.

The grid and fiber combination includes sensors, meters, and switches that enable EPB to track energy use and manage power outages. During one storm in 2013, the grid’s switches reduced outage times by 55 percent, saving EPB $1.4 million. In late April, the area endured severe storms, but network officials estimate the smart grid prevented power outages to 17,800 customers.

In an interview with Christopher last November, EPB’s former President and CEO Harold DePriest detailed how Chattanooga’s fiber network helps bring down costs:

“We built a smart grid on the back of that fiber, and that has very literally cut the number of outages and the length of outages here in Chattanooga by 50 to 60 percent... that one thing is saving our community's businesses somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 to 60 million dollars a year. That's pretty substantial.”

J. Ed. Marston, EPB’s vice president of marketing and communications, said:

"It's proved out a business model that is very effective and one that could be played out on a national level. We've proven that this subscriber-funded model for building both a smart grid and a fiber-optic communications network...

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Posted April 20, 2017 by Nick

Next City - April 20, 2017

Tennessee Bills Send Message on Municipal Broadband

Written by Josh Cohen

In a world increasingly reliant on high-speed internet for all facets of life, about 34 percent of Tennesseans lack broadband access. Two state bills were considered this year to remedy that. One would’ve allowed city-owned high-speed internet infrastructure to expand at no cost to residents. Another outlined an offer of $45 million in subsidies to private internet service providers to build the same infrastructure. Only the latter passed.

...

Unsurprisingly, surrounding towns and suburbs want access to that network. EPB wants to expand as well. But they cannot. A state law pushed by private telecom companies prohibits public utilities with broadband networks from expanding beyond city limits. The Federal Communications Commission overturned that law in 2015, but an appellate court reversed the FCC’s ruling, meaning the law still stands.

 

State Senator Janice Bowling’s bill would’ve changed Tennessee law to allow municipal broadband providers to expand beyond city limits. Tullahoma, a city in Bowling’s district, also has a municipal broadband network. EPB said it could expand its network infrastructure with cash on hand and private loans. But both Bowling’s bill and its companion in the House died in committee.

 

Instead, the legislature passed the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act, a bill pushed by Governor Bill Haslam. It provides $45 million in tax breaks and grants to private companies such as AT&T and Comcast to build broadband infrastructure in communities that need it.

 

“I find that infuriating. Chattanooga has not only one of the best networks in the nation, but arguably one of the best on Earth and the state legislature is prohibiting them from serving people just outside of their city...

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Posted April 19, 2017 by christopher

As we continue to cover the growing movement of rural electric cooperatives to bring high quality Internet networks to their members, we wanted to bring Alyssa Clemsen-Roberts back on the show. Alyssa was last on the show for episode 109 and has since moved from the Utilities Telecom Council to Pedernales Electric Co-op in Texas.

Though Pedernales is not considering a major broadband investment, Alyssa's insights from her years working with many electric utilities are valuable in understanding what electric co-ops have to consider before making a network investment. 

We start off by discussing the recent legislation in Tennessee that finally allows electric co-ops to offer Internet access before we move on to the real considerations a general manager has to examine before getting into telecom. We also talk quite a bit about the interplay between rural electric co-ops and telecommunications companies.

Read the transcript of the show.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 32 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Thanks to Break the Bans for the music. The song is Escape and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Posted April 19, 2017 by lgonzalez

Johnson City Power Board (JCPB) in Tennessee began considering expanded uses for its fiber-optic infrastructure way back in 2009. After several stops and starts, the community is on track again, having just commissioned a Fiber and Wireless to the Premise (FTTP) Feasibility Study.

A Long Road

In 2009, when the municipal utility was installing fiber to substations they reviewed the idea of offering broadband to businesses and residents. Ultimately, they chose to focus on smart-grid development and save possible telecommunications offerings for some time in the future. 

This isn’t the first time the community of 63,000 has commissioned a feasibility study. In 2011, community leaders took the results from a study and decided a public-private partnership was the best route. The community is located between Bristol, Virginia, and Chattanooga, Tennessee - both communities with municipal fiber networks that have seen upticks in economic development. Competing for new businesses and retaining the ones they already could not have been easy while sandwiched between the two communities with high-quality connectivity.

In 2012, Johnson City announced that it would be working with the BVU Authority in Bristol as a partner. Now that the BVU system will likely be sold to a private provider, Johnson City is back to square one, but with considerable experience in its pocket. 

Asking For Input

As part if the study, JCPB has launched surveys on their website for residents and businesses; they’re also making the surveys available through the mail. JCPB is asking the community to complete the surveys before the end of June.

From the JCPB survey page:

Over 1,000 communities nationwide have undergone similar evaluation processes and benefited from the information obtained from these types of surveys.  Survey results have enabled key decision-makers within these municipalities to make more...

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