Tag: "chattanooga"

Posted December 8, 2016 by Lisa Gonzalez

On November 27th, the Chattanooga area was pelted with rough storms. According to the city's Electric Power Board (EPB) spokesman John Pless, the utility smart-grid kept the lights on for 90 percent of the city’s electricity users who would have otherwise experienced an outage. A smart-grid detects where damage occurs and allows the network to self-heal when possible, often in seconds and undetected by electricity users.

"Smart grid automation either prevented or automatically restored more than 23,000 customer outages, with almost 2,100 customers experiencing outages of greater than five minutes," Pless said.

In addition to the security of maintaining electric service during severe weather, businesses lose productivity when the power goes out. By 2014, EPB officials estimated the technology had saved local businesses approximately $50 million in two years; it had reduced outages by 60 percent. Since then, they have worked with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to get maximum efficiency from the EPB smart-grid.

Harold DePriest, retired President and CEO of EPB, spoke with Christopher recently in episode #230 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. During the conversation, Harold talked about how the smart-grid has positively impacted the community:

"[T]hat one thing is saving our community's businesses somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 to 60 million dollars a year. That's pretty substantial. [F]rankly, the revenues are now staying here in Chattanooga. We'll be, this year, about $150 million in revenues. That means there are additional monies for taxes. Our in lieu of tax payments are actually up about $8 million because of our smart-grid, on an annual basis. Roughly half of that goes to the school system, so that's a pretty neat thing in my opinion. The other is it's supplied the money for EPB to invest in other things that are of value to our customers, a new control center, GPS in all of our trucks, the ability to respond quicker and more efficiently on a daily basis, and in large outages. All...

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Posted December 2, 2016 by

 

This is the transcript for episode 230 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. Harold DePriest of Chattanooga, Tennessee, describes his role in building the fiber network in the city. This is an in-depth interview of over an hour in length. Listen to this episode here.

Harold DePriest: This fiber system will help our community have the kind of jobs that will let our children and grand children stay here and work if they want to. That is the biggest thing that has happened.

Lisa Gonzalez: This is episode 230 of the community broadband bits podcast from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. I'm Lisa Gonzalez. Chattanooga, Tennessee has been profiled in dozens of media outlets. It's a community reborn from one of the dirtiest cities in America, to what is now an economic development powerhouse. The city's publicly owned fiber optic network provides high quality connectivity that attracts businesses and entrepreneurs, but getting to where they are today did not happen overnight. In this episode, Chris has an in depth conversation with Harold DePriest, one of the men behind bringing fiber optics to Chattanooga. He's retired now, but as president and CEO of the electric power board, he was involved from the beginning. Harold describes how the electric power board made changes both inside and out, and went from being just another electric utility, to one that's considered one of the best in customer service in the country. The interview is longer than our typical podcast, but we think it's worth is. Now here are Chris and Harold DePriest, former CEO and president of the electric power board in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to a community broadband bits discussion. A long form discussion, a little bit different from what we normally do, with someone that I have a tremendous amount of respect for, Harold DePriest. Welcome to the show.

Harold DePriest: Thank you. It's good to be with you Chris.

Christopher Mitchell: Harold, you've been the CEO, and you've recently retired from being the CEO and president of the electric power board in Chattanooga, which runs that legendary municipal fiber network. You've been involved in many capacities in public power, and I know that you're...

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Posted November 29, 2016 by Christopher Mitchell

In a break from our traditional format of 20-30 minutes (or so), we have a special in-depth interview this week with Harold Depriest, the former CEO and President of Chattanooga's Electric Power Board. He recently retired after 20 incredibly transformative years for both Chattanooga and its municipal electric utility. 

We talk about the longer history behind Chattanooga's nation-leading fiber network and how the culture of the electric utility had to be changed long before it began offering services to the public. We also talk about the role of public power in building fiber networks.

Something we wanted to be clear about - we talk about the timeline of when Chattanooga started to build its network and how that changed later when the federal stimulus efforts decided to make Chattanooga's electric grid the smartest in the nation. This is an important discussion as few understand exactly what the grant was used for and how it impacted the telecommunications side of the utility. 

But we start with the most important point regarding Chattanooga's fiber network - how it has impacted the community and the pride it has helped residents and businesses to develop. For more information about Chattanooga's efforts, see our report, Broadband at the Speed of Light, and our Chattanooga tag

Read the transcript of the show here.

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

This show is 70 minutes long and can be played below on this page or via iTunes or via 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 mojo monkeys for the music, licensed...

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Posted November 16, 2016 by Scott Carlson

At a recent WRAL TechWire event, former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chief of staff Blair Levin urged North Carolina communities to seek a repeal of a state law that restricts local telecommunications authority, reports WRAL TechWire.

“When the new General Assembly returns to Raleigh, tell the assembly to tear down the law that prevents faster, cheaper broadband,” Levin said in a keynote address at the WRAL TechWire Executive Exchange in Wilson, N.C. Wilson's municipal Greenlight network is among the first in the nation to offer high-quality Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Internet access.  

Currently, North Carolina law HB 129 prevents Wilson from expanding its Internet access service area beyond Wilson County and discourages other communities from investing in similar infrastructure. HB 129 was the subject of a legal battle when the city of Wilson (pop. 50,000) wanted to provide Internet access to neighboring Pinetops (pop. 1,400) and other communities beyond the limitations of the state law. They challenged the law, as did Chattanooga, which faced slightly different restrictions in Tennessee.

In February of 2015, the FCC ordered that Wilson could serve communities beyond the county borders, but both states appealed, challenging the agency's authority. The federal appeals court reversed that ruling in August 2016.

Under the provisions of the North Carolina law, Wilson could lose it's exemption to offer service at all, but by temporarily providing free telephone and Internet access to Pinetops, they protect their exemption. Two state legislators have vowed to take action and try to get the state law changed during the next legislative session.

Levin Praises Wilson...

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Posted October 29, 2016 by Lisa Gonzalez

Are you spending the Halloween weekend watching scary movies on Netflix? Researching pagan rituals online? Scouring the web for last minute costume ideas? If you are don't have decent Internet access, even those simple tasks can be downright horrifying.

If you are trapped as a cable monopoly zombie, you understand the difference between Broadband Tricks or Treats. We created this graphic last year to celebrate the spooky differences between community networks and cable monopolies and it's too good to bury in a shallow grave! Here it is again...back from the (un)dead!

Trick or Treat - Subscriber reviews edition!

View a larger version of this graphic here [pdf]. Stay up to date on community networks with our newsletter!

Posted October 27, 2016 by Christopher Mitchell

Google Fiber has finally announced its plans for the future after weeks of dramatic speculation that it will lay off half its workforce and give up on fiber-optics entirely. Google has now confirmed our expectations: they are pausing new Google Fiber cities, continuing to expand within those where they have a presence, and focusing on approaches that will offer a better return on investment in the short term.

Nothing Worth Doing Is Easy

In short, Google has found it more difficult than they anticipated to deploy rapidly and at low cost. And in discussions with various people, we think it can be summed up in this way: building fiber-optic networks is challenging and incumbents have an arsenal of dirty tricks to make it even more so, especially by slowing down access to poles.

That said, Google is not abandoning its efforts to drive better Internet access across the country. In the short term, people living in modern apartment buildings and condos will be the greatest beneficiary as Google takes the Webpass model and expands it to more cities. But those that hoped (or feared) Google would rapidly build Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) across the country are likely disappointed (or slightly relieved, if they happen to be big incumbent providers). 

This is a good moment to talk about the lessons learned from Google Fiber and what we think communities should be thinking about. 

Let's start by noting something we have often said: Google Fiber and its larger "access" approach have been incredibly beneficial for everyone except the big monopolists. Its investments led to far more media coverage of Internet access issues and made local leaders better understand what would be possible after we dismantle the cable broadband monopoly. 

Benoit Felton, a sharp international telecommunications analyst wrote a very good summary of Google Fiber titled Salvaging Google Fiber's Achievements. Some of my thoughts below overlap his - but his piece touches on matters I won’t address, so please check out his analysis.

I want to focus on a few key points.

This is Not a Surprise...

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Posted September 8, 2016 by Lisa Gonzalez

Last week, Christopher was a guest on the Unanimous Dissent Radio Show. Sam Sacks and Sam Knight asked him to share information about the details on state barriers around the country.

The guys get into the nitty gritty on state level lobbying and anti-muni legislation. They also discuss how a growing number of communities are interested in the local accountability, better services, and improved quality of life that follows publicly owned Internet infrastructure.

The show is now posted on SoundCloud and available for review. Christopher’s interview starts around 17:00 and runs for about 15 minutes. Check it out:

 

Posted September 1, 2016 by Lisa Gonzalez

In our last Community Broadband Bits podcast, Christopher and I discussed the August 10th U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit decision to reverse the FCC’s February 2015 ruling against state barriers. We mentioned Harold Feld’s article about the ruling posted on his website. In keeping with most matters of importance in the municipal Internet network field, Harold expertly sums up the history of the case, the arguments, and what the outcome could mean for the future.

Feld gets down into the crux of the argument that won over the three judges in the Sixth Circuit - the need to establish if it is states or federal agencies that make the decisions regarding whether or not local governments can provide telecommunications.

Determining the answer was a multi-step process and Feld explains how the FCC came to the conclusion that they had the authority to preempt the laws and the states' arguments against it. This was, after all, a test case and Feld describes why the FCC chose Chattanooga and Wilson.

Read more on Feld’s Tales of the Sausage Factory, where he speculates on how the big incumbent providers will react to their win and what is next for municipal network advocates. From Harold:

As with most things worth doing in policy land, it’s disheartening that it’s an uphill fight to get to rational policy. The idea that states should tell local people in local communities that they can’t invest in their own local infrastructure runs against traditional Republican ideas about small government and local control as it does against traditional Democratic ideas about the responsibility of government to provide basic services and promote competition. But that’s how things work in public policy sometimes. We can either give up and take what we get, or keep pushing until we change things for the better.

Posted August 29, 2016 by Lisa Gonzalez

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued their order on August 10th supporting the states of Tennessee and North Carolina in their challenge from an FCC decision from February 2015. Both states objected to the FCC’s decision to preempt state laws preventing municipalities from providing fast, affordable, reliable connectivity via municipal Internet networks. The Appellate Court Judges reviewed the legal arguments, the precedent, and the interplay between federal authority and state sovereignty. 

The impact of their ruling will affect more than a few pages in a law school text book. Access to high-quality Internet access positively impacts real people and businesses and, as Cecila Kang captures in her recent article in the New York Times, the people who depend on it fear the outcome if their state legislators take it away.

Family Farm Fear

Kang profiles Vick Family Farms, a family potato farm in Wilson, North Carolina.  The Vick family chose to invest in a processing plant when they learned that Wilson’s Greenlight would provide the necessary connectivity. Greenlight allowed them to increase sales overseas. Now, they may lose that connection:

“We’re very worried because there is no way we could run this equipment on the internet service we used to have, and we can’t imagine the loss we’ll have to the business,” said Charlotte Vick, head of sales for the farm.

As Kang notes in her article, the FCC has no plans to appeal the decision, so battles will resume at the state level. Advocates will need to be twice as vigilant because incumbents - the only ones that come out ahead from this decision - may try to push state legislators for even tougher anti-competitive state barriers.

Pinetops: Poster Child For Good Connectivity

Kang checks in on the small town where Wilson’s Greenlight began offering Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Gigabit service about 14...

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Posted August 15, 2016 by Lisa Gonzalez

EPB customers love the fast, affordable, reliable Internet access they get from their muni and they appreciate the way its smart-grid helps them save money on their electric bill. According to a new J.D. Power report, their municipal utility is also the highest rated mid-size utility in the South for customer service and reliability.

Double Honors

Just a month ago, Consumer Reports magazine rated EPB the best TV and Internet access utility in the county for customer satisfaction, as chosen by a reader survey. The J.D. Power report went on to rank EPB number two in the country in the category of municipal or investor-owned electric utility.

The Times Free Press reports that in 2015 EPB Fiber Optics earned a net income of $23.5 million while the electric division earned $3.5 million. EPB President David Wade said that the smart-grid has reduced power outages by 60 percent and contributed to customer satisfaction by enhancing reliability of the system.

"The lesson that utilities can learn from other high-performing service providers is that to excel you need a culture that puts customers and employees first," said John Hazen, senior director of the utility practice at J.D. Power. "And because customer expectations continue to increase, you need to have a mindset of continuous improvement to keep up."

It looks like EPB has that lesson committed to memory. From the Time Free press article:

EPB Chairman Joe Ferguson said the favorable grades from EPB customers reflect the utility's local ownership, public service and management focus on serving the customer.

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