published Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Chattanooga: EPB’s fiber-optic system is ahead of schedule

Audio clip

Katie Espeseth

EPB will be adding new fiber into the entertainment and communications diet of more than 100,000 homes and businesses in the next year.

The city-owned power utility announced Tuesday it expects to complete the first phase of the nation’s biggest municipally owned high-speed telecom service within the next 12 months — two years faster than originally planned.

EPB’s new services — billed as FiTV, Fi-Speed Internet and Fi Phone — should begin to be available to customers in and around downtown and North Chattanooga in July.

“We will have fiber-optic service to every home and business in Chattanooga, Red Bank and East Ridge within a year,” EPB President Harold DePriest said Tuesday during an announcement of EPB’s Fiber Optics services. “We will be coming to a neighborhood near you soon.”

EPB still is negotiating its prices and channel offerings, but Vice President Katie Espeseth said the company’s Fi TV will include more than 300 channels. But she said Fi TV will be priced at or below rates now charged by Comcast, which provides most of the cable TV service in the Chattanooga region.

BY THE NUMBERS

100,000: Homes and businesses where EPB will provide fiber-optic service in the next year

25: “Fioneers” testing out EPB’s new fiber-optic video service

300-plus: TV channels EPB will offer on its new Fi-TV service

$220 million: EPB investment in its fiber-to-home initiative

$169 million: Investment in fiber-optic lines and electric system upgrades

$60 million: Budget for EPB electronics and individual equipment for residential service

Source: EPB

Customers also will be able to watch or record four channels at a time and customize their plans to display only channels they choose, she said.

EPB’s standard Fi-Speed Internet will provide 15 megabits per second — one of the fastest services available — and can be upgraded to even faster speeds.

The company also will offer a telephone service for local and long-distance and will try to sign up customers to get all three telecom services, officials said.

“If you buy all three services, it’s a ‘tri-fi’ bundle,” Ms. Espeseth said.

EPB is testing its video services in about 25 homes near downtown and North Chattanooga. Those who are trying the service — known to EPB officials as “fioneers” — praised the service Tuesday.

“The speed of the online service is truly amazing, and the video quality is great,” said Carlos Hernandez, a Woodland Avenue resident in North Chattanooga who has tested the EPB service for the past couple of weeks.

Highland Park resident Scott Wilson called the new services “fantastic” and said he’s eager to sign up.

“The TV pictures are super-clear, and the speed of the Internet is unbelievable,” he said.

Laurie Shipley, public affairs manager for Comcast, said EPB will add competition in the market, “but we still believe that our service and value are superior.”

AT&T also plans to bring its video service known as U-verse to Chattanooga within the next year, according to the company’s franchise agreement. The company uses an Internet-based service over its phone lines to provide interactive television and video services, AT&T spokesman Bob Corney said.

EPB is spending $220 million on its fiber-optic plans. Most of that expense is being paid for by the company’s electric system, which is providing a smart grid, a digitally operated electrical network.

EPB Chairman Joe Ferguson said the enhanced communications for the electric system will reduce outages and eventually allow consumers to control and limit their power consumption better.

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nrutledge1 said...

Bring it on EPB! Chattanooga has been long overdue for REAL competition in residential telecom. No more of the same old BellSouth/AT&T for phone and Comcast for cable. We have a real choice now! I can't wait until they run it right to my front door.

June 17, 2009 at 9:42 a.m.
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