* 68,878 - No. of residential customers of EPB fiber optics
* 141,191 - total households served by EPB with electric service
* 48.78 - Percent of households using EPB fiber optics
* 5,718 - No. of commercial subscribers for EPB fiber optics
* $131.1 million - Projected sales this year by EPB fiber optics
Just six years after adding Internet and television service, EPB said Wednesday it has become the No. 1 provider of telecommunications services in its 600-square-mile service territory with nearly 75,000 customers.
EPB says nearly half of all the households it serves with electricity have opted to pay for at least one of EPB's telecom services — cable TV, high-speed Internet or telephone service. Although rival Comcast still insists it is bigger in the entire region, EPB says it has displaced Comcast as the biggest telecom provider within its service footprint.
"EPB listened to the people in our hometown and led the way in providing fiber optic services when no one else would," EPB President and CEO Harold DePriest said in a statement Wednesday. "We combined world-class fiber optic services with neighbor-to-neighbor customer support and outstanding value, and our customers responded."
To mark its growth, EPB Fiber Optics has launched an "All the Way to 75K and Beyond" campaign with giveaway contests and product promotions. Starting today, EPB is offering free access for its Fi TV Gold customers to the premium EPB Fi TV Sports Tier for five selected days. Other giveaways are also planned as part of the promotion and will be available at the website www.epbfi.com/75k.
Alex Horwitz,vice president of public relations for Comcast in Atlanta, disputed EPB's claim of offering the fastest and biggest telecom service in the region. Comcast provides access to 10 million Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide, including more than 300 in Chattanooga. EPB has just 16 such hot spots, Horwitz said.
"While we do not reveal subscriber numbers, Comcast continues to serve more residential and business customers across Chattanooga than any other provider," he said. "Between multiple levels of broadband service, advanced video, telephone and home security services, we will continue our strong investment in Chattanooga."
Horwitz said Comcast has launched a new 2 Gig service, known as Gigabit Pro, that is twice the speed of EPB's widely touted Gig Internet service, although Comcast charges nearly twice as much for such high-speed connections and has installation fees that EPB does not. Comcast also offers cheaper basic cable service than does EPB and Comcast serves a wider area in the Chattanooga region than does EPB.
"We also offer the most shows and movies via On Demand in Chattanooga," Horwitz said. "We also allow customers to watch and record up to 6 shows at one time EPB does not have this type of functionality."
Despite such Comcast services, however, EPB has grown its telecom business far faster than Comcast since the city owned electric utility expanded its service to telecom in 2009. EPB more than doubled its customer base in 2011 and has since grown at an average annual growth rate of 64 percent.
EPB projects the telecom service will generated more than $131 million in revenues this year and generate more than $16 million in profits.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 757-6340.
A previous version of this story said Comcast charges four times as much as EPB for high-speed connections. It has been corrected to say that Comcast charges nearly twice as much and has installation fees that EPB does not. A previous version of this story said Comcast provides access to 8 million Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide. Comcast now says the number is 10 million.