EPB plans to start testing cable television services in February or March at several hundred houses, the utility’s president said Thursday.
“This is a big thing that we’re trying to do,” President and CEO Harold DePriest said. “I have 13 crews who are installing fiber (to substations). We are geared up to install about 60 miles of fiber a month.”
EPB plans to offer fiber-based cable television, high-speed Internet and landline telephone services to 80 percent of its electricity customers by spring 2012, he said. The remainder of EPB’s service area would come on line later.
EPB’s business plan anticipates the utility signing up 35 percent of its electric customers to make the plan pay off. But the utility will face competition from Comcast, which already offers cable, phone and Internet service, and AT&T Inc., which plans to start offering Internet-based video services in Chattanooga in the next two years.
Mr. DePriest said that AT&T’s U-verse is a DSL-based product that has limited bandwidth, which would be an issue with clients who want to watch online videos. EPB plans to offer broadband speeds of 100 megabytes per second.
But an AT&T spokeswoman said that U-verse is an unmatched service.
“U-verse TV offers consumers a unique television experience because it is delivered over a 100 percent Internet Protocol-based platform, giving it a stronger advantage over older cable-based platforms,” spokeswoman Cathy Lewandowski said in a statement.
The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday reported that cable and telephone companies are engaged in a price war over their Internet services. AT&T is guaranteeing its current prices, which vary from $20 to $55 a month, for two years, the Journal reports. Verizon Communications Inc. is offering customers six months of DSL free if they subscribe for phone and Internet, knocking $20 off the normal $65 monthly price tag.
Mr. DePriest dismissed AT&T’s threat to EPB’s telecommunications plan.
“I am doubtful that AT&T will be a major factor here in Chattanooga,” Mr. DePriest said. “We don’t have a lot of DSL in Chattanooga.”
But Ms. Lewandowski said that U-verse is a “new generation” service that is flexible and makes efficient use of bandwidth. It offers more than 45 high definition channels.
The Wall Street Journal contributed to this report.
New cable TV service comingAt a Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial board meeting Thursday, EPB President and CEO Harold DePriest said the utility will begin providing commercial cable and internet service early next year.