Study finds EPB fiber optics generates over $865 million in benefits for Chattanooga

UTC analysis says smart grid, gig service adds over 2,800 jobs

EPB lineman David Everett works to install fiber optic cable along Amnicola Highway in this file photo.
EPB lineman David Everett works to install fiber optic cable along Amnicola Highway in this file photo.
photo EPB tile

A new study suggests that EPB's fiber optics has helped generate at least 2,800 new jobs and added $865.3 million to the local economy by cutting power outages, improving Internet links and attracting businesses to the "Gig City."

The study by University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Economist Bento Lobo found that since its introduction six years ago today, EPB's smart grid and first-in-the-nation citywide gigabit Internet service has helped local education, health care, business, arts and culture and municipal services. The smart grid is estimated to have avoided 124.7 million customer minutes of interruptions by better detection of power faults and better methods of rerouting power to restore service more quickly than in the past.

"This analysis suggests that the true economic value of the fiber infrastructure is much greater than the cost of installing and maintaining the infrastructure," Dr. Lobo said.

EPB spent more than $220 million to install fiber optic cable throughout its service territory and to install equipment for both a smarter electric grid and a high-speed telecommunications network that reaches all of its nearly 170,000 customers. EPB received a $111.7 million federal stimulus grant in 2010 to help build its smart grid.

EPB's telecom services, which include high-speed Internet, cable TV and telephone, has grown to include 75,725 homes and businesses. EPB has surpassed Comcast as the No. 1 telecom provider within EPB's service territory in and around Chattanooga.

Lobo's study calculates all of the benefits from EPB's services, which said totals between $865.3-million and 1.3-billion in economic and social benefits. The study says the fibre optics system has helped add between 2,800 and 5,200 new jobs. These estimates translate into benefits of between $2,832 and $3,762 per Hamilton County resident.

"Because of our fiber optic infrastructure, we are creating economic development opportunities and good, middle-class jobs today as well as positioning Chattanooga to compete in the innovation economy oftomorrow,"Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said in a statement today.

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