Cleveland Utilities studies adding telecom services

Cleveland Utilities studies adding telecom services

July 30th, 2014 by Paul Leach in Business Around the Region

POLL: Should Cleveland Utilities become a telecom provider?

Ken Webb

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Cleveland Utilities could add telecommunications to its utility services if a feasibility study shows the financial viability of delivering Internet, telephone and television to Bradley County homes and businesses.

The utility's board recently voted 5-0 to hire a consulting firm to study the costs and benefits of utilizing its fiber optic network to become a telecom provider.

"Internet connection now is the electric connection of the 1930s," said Ken Webb, president and CEO of Cleveland Utilities, who noted there are a number of locations in the area that do not have access to such services.

The study would determine the economic impact of developing a telecommunications system, both in upfront and ongoing costs, said Webb.

Possible cooperation with other telecommunication systems in adjoining areas will also be addressed in the study, he said.

It is too early to provide an accurate estimate of the cost of the study itself, but the board will be included in the process the entire way, said Webb.

Cleveland Utilities already has a considerable fiber optics infrastructure in place, which extends 40 miles along the electric division's power transmission lines, said Walt Vineyard, vice president of the utility's information technology division

To provide residential services, the fiber optic system would need to be extended into neighborhoods and directly connected to homes, he said.

Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, who serves on the utility board, expressed support for the study.

"I think we owe it to our citizens to at least explore the best services we can possibly provide," said Rowland.

Utility officials also discussed how the incorporation of telecommunication services could assist efforts to bring businesses to the city.

Two prior studies have addressed the possibility of adding telecommunication operations to Cleveland Utilities' services, with the most recent occurring eight years ago, said utility officials.

In other business, the utility board voted 5-0 to approve the purchase for 1,350 automated water meters through Badger Meter for the amount of $94,162.

Badger Meter's bid was $11,000 under the $105,165 bid made by Neptune, another automated water meter provider, said Webb.

The meters will be shipped in 150-unit allotments between September and May, according to agreement terms.

The automated water meters are part of a program launched last year to convert Cleveland Utilities' water customer base to an automated system.

Over 700 water meters have been converted so far, said Craig Mullinax, vice president of the water division.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.