EPB video rates rise again in April

EPB Fiber optics TV package costs rise an average of 6% to pay for rising content costs

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Chattanooga's municipal utility, EPB, is headquartered in downtown Chattanooga, as shown in this 2019 photo. EPB directors Friday voted to raise EPB video rates in April to reflect higher programming costs provided to broadcast stations and cable TV video providers.
Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Chattanooga's municipal utility, EPB, is headquartered in downtown Chattanooga, as shown in this 2019 photo. EPB directors Friday voted to raise EPB video rates in April to reflect higher programming costs provided to broadcast stations and cable TV video providers.

EPB will raise its rates for video services by another 6% in April, adding anywhere from $5 to $11 a month to the typical bill for those subscribing to EPB Fiber Optics TV packages.

Effective April 1, the monthly charge will increase by $5 for EPB's bronze channel option, $9 for those getting silver channels and $11 a month more for those subscribing to the gold tier channels. EPB directors Friday approved the higher rates to cover rising expenses from broadcast stations and other content providers on EPB's television service.

EPB Chief Financial Officer Greg Eaves said content providers have raised prices for cable TV providers like EPB by an average of 8% a year since EPB launched its video and TV services more than a decade ago. The cost of offering just the four major broadcast networks has increased for EPB from $2.95 a month per customer in 2012 to $26.95 a month per customer today, which Eaves said EPB must pass along to cover its expenses.

The latest rate increase is up from the 3.9% rate increase EPB implemented last April to cover the growing expense of paying for local television broadcast rights and other television content providers. EPB is not increasing the price for its premium channels or for EPB Fi-Speed Internet, which EPB has kept relatively the same since the internet service began even with much faster service today.

"I think we provide a great service for a lot of our customers who still want to have our video option, but unfortunately, we have to pass along these price increases from our content providers, which continue to go up," EPB President David Wade told the EPB board Friday. "It's telling that we've been able to hold the residential price of world-class fiber optic internet services steady for the 14 years since we launched them, but when it comes to TV, subscriptions across the nation keep going up regardless of which company provides the service because of ever-increasing charges from content providers."

(READ MORE: EPB adds 2.5 Gig service for residential internet)

The higher EPB video rates come three months after Comcast raised its Xfinity prices in January. On average, a typical Comcast subscriber of cable television service is paying 15% more this year than last for the same TV channels, although rate increases vary across the country, according to a report by StreamWise Solutions.

In addition to its three main television offerings, EPB is also increasing the subscription price for MGM+ by $1 to $6.99 per month, plus tax. The News & Sports package, an add-on only available to bronze customers on the latest EPB Fi TV platform, will increase by $3 for residential customers. Other premiums and additional channel packages are not increasing, and discounts for customers with two or more fiber optic services still apply.

"We don't like to ever raise our prices, but we do try to be transparent and open with our rates with no contracts, hidden fees, data limits or speed throttling," Wade said.

Internet prices don't rise

EPB prices will remain the same for Fi-Speed Internet and Fi Phone even with its enhanced speed.

EPB, which has provided electricity service in its 600-square-mile service territory since its creation in 1935, has offered internet and video service since 2009. EPB initially charged $59 a month for its internet service with a speed of 15 megabits per second. EPB now charges just over $57 a month for its basic internet service with a download and upload speed of 300 Mbps, Wade said.

EPB also offers faster internet speeds of up to 25 gigabits per second at higher prices.

(READ MORE: EPB fast internet boosts local economy by $2.69 billion)

EPB is the largest internet service provider in Chattanooga with more than 120,000 subscribers to EPB Fiber Optics, Eaves said.

Over time, the share of EPB Fiber customers subscribing to video and television services has declined as more consumers switch to steaming video options.

"We are continuing to see the video decline, and we're down to about 33,000 video subscribers, or only about 30% of our fiber optic customers," Wade said.

The EPB president said the overwhelming majority of those who initially signed up for EPB's fiber optic service subscribed to the video channels offered by EPB, but the share has steadily declined and most EPB fiber optic consumers today get their internet service through EPB and video service elsewhere.

Electric bills edge up

EPB electric rates also are heading up next month due to an increase in TVA's fuel cost adjustments. In March, the typical Chattanooga household using 1,091 kilowatt-hours of electricity will pay nearly 5.9% higher rates, boosting the typical monthly light bill by $7.77 next month compared with the current rate, according to an EPB statement. EPB power rates next month will be 7.3% higher than a year ago, costing the typical household $9.60 more than a year ago for the same amount of power.

Power bills for many EPB customers have already increased due to the cold weather in January, which set an all-time power peak record for TVA on Jan. 17 when single-digit temperatures across the Tennessee Valley pushed electricity usage to an all-time peak of 34,525 megawatts.

"As many people get bills from arctic January temperatures, we remind customers to consider levelized billing to make bills more predictable," EPB spokesperson Sophie Moore said.

Under the levelized billing program, bills are calculated on a rolling average of the last 12 months.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6340.

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