CORRECTION: This story was updated Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, at 8 p.m. to correct the headline and third graph to say the most popular service is the $6 Silver Channels. Updated at 3:01 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, to change the percentage from 8 to 5 in the first paragraph. A previous update at 11:11 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, changed the wording to TV content providers in the first paragraph, change price boost to $6.71 in second paragraph and change the percentage to 8.8% in the fourth paragraph.
EPB will raise the average charge for its video service by more than 5% in November to pay for increased costs from its television content providers.
EPB directors Friday approved new EPB video rates, similar to the increases implemented last November, to boost the average customer's bill for those subscribing to EPB video services by $6.71 a month.
Effective Nov. 1, the price of EPB channel packages will increase by $1 for Bronze Channels, $6 for its most popular service, Silver Channels, and $8 for Gold Channels.
EPB is not changing rates for its premium channels, equipment, Fi Phone, and Fi-Speed Internet. Bundle discounts for taking two or more fiber optic services also will still apply under the new rate schedule.
EPB President David Wade said the higher video rates are a straight pass through from TV networks to TV subscribers of EPB.
"The new pricing is just enough to cover the additional charges from TV networks," he said. "And, we're letting customers know they may be able to save by switching to the new EPB Fi TV because they can use it without having to rent set-top-boxes."
Among the 103,991 customers of EPB fiber optic network, only about half still subscribe to video services. When the city-owned electric utility expanded into telecommunications 10 years ago this month, 80% of EPB's telecom subscribers signed up for video or cable TV service.
"Just like our competitors, we continue to see the share of our EPB Fiber customers with video service going down," said Greg Eaves, EPB's chief financial officer. "But we don't make or lose any money on our video service and we continue to see strong and growing interest in our internet service."
Wade said major video providers limit options that EPB may offer and don't allow the utility to charge customers only for the individual channels they want, which he said is one of the biggest customer complaints he receives. But EPB offers a 96 video an fiber optic options and works with customer who want to move to internet-based video services like Hulu, Amazon Prime, Netflix and others., he said.
"We're working hard to reduce the impact for our customers as TV networks charge more and more," Wade said. "Our costs for video content has increased over 8% annually for the past 10 years. I don't know of much that has increased as much, but we're making zero margins on our video."
While video rates are going up, EPB is keeping its internet rates the same even as it boosts the speed of those connections. Earlier this year, EPB Fiber Optics tripled the starting speed for Fi-Speed Internet to 300 Mbps at no additional charge while reducing the price of the Gig so EPB internet customers can upgrade for just $10 more.
Since introducing its gigabit-per-second internet service in 2009, EPB has cut the rate for Gig service from $349.99 a month to only $67.99 a month.
Chattanooga, which bills itself as the "Gig City," is still the only North American city to offer Gig service to all homes and businesses, although most cities offer Gig service for businesses or in select parts of town.
Former Mayor Jon Kinsey said when EPB launched its Gig service a decade ago, "we thought we had a two- or three-year lead on other cities, but I never dreamed we'd still be the only citywide Gig service 10 years later," he said.
When EPB expanded its electric service using its fiber optic smart grid to add internet, video and telephone service to all of its customers, the utility's business plan projected EPB would need 30,000 telecom customers to be successful. Today, EPB has nearly three and a half times that number.
Wade said EPB will soon send a letter to all customers explaining the new rates and its customer service representatives are available to answer questions, schedule upgrades and provide support at (423) 648-1372 or online at EPB.com.
Contact Dave Flessner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 757-6340.