Strong fiber-optic signups will speed EPB debt payback

EPB revealed on Friday that it has surpassed 35,000 fiber-optic customers in the Chattanooga area, leaping ahead of initial projections of 26,000 users by the third year.

"We're beating our projections on that," EPB Chief Financial Officer Greg Eaves said Friday. "The fiber-optics business is actually pretty good."

If the city-owned utility continues to make money and pay down its debt, it will become the most successful government-owned network after cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia and Marietta, Ga., gave up their similar efforts.

The 59-employee fiber-optic division brought in $57.3 million in its third year, according to the company's 2011 report.

At the current rate, EPB can shave seven years off the time it will take to pay off its telecom debt, becoming virtually debt-free by 2020 instead of 2027 as projected, Eaves said.