EPB’s proposed fiber-to-the-home plan is not illegal and can work, the Chattanooga utility said in its latest response to a cable industry lawsuit.
“We have a sound plan for building fiber-to-the-home, and we stand by our business plan,” said Katie Espeseth, vice president of EPB’s fiber-to-the-home system of the legal filing.
The Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association has sued EPB in chancery court in Nashville claiming the utility’s fiber-to-the-home plan is illegally subsidized by the electric system.
In a memorandum and order issued earlier this month, Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle refused to dismiss the trade group’s lawsuit challenging EPB’s plan. She rejected arguments by EPB that the lawsuit should have been filed in Chattanooga and improperly did not include the city of Chattanooga.
“The judge made it very clear the case would be heard in Nashville,” said Stacey B. Briggs, cable association president. “They want to use ratepayer money to build a system that’s doomed to failure.”
EPB officials disagree. The telecommunications plan is not cross-subsidized, EPB said, and the utility still believes the case should be heard in Hamilton County since the utility is owned by the city of Chattanooga.
“We asked the community if they wanted us to provide the service, and they said ‘yes,’” she said. “We will fight the lawsuit.”
EPB officials are preparing a plan to issue about $219 million in bonds to build the fiber-optic system. They hope to have the details finished by Feb. 15 so the utility’s board can send the proposal to the Chattanooga City Council for approval, she said.
EPB is installing the telecommunications system’s control systems and plans to start installing fiber-optic lines to its electric substations starting in February in preparation of offering the service, Ms. Espeseth said.