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EPB FAST FACTS

* Cost of "Smart Grid": $230 million for grid infrastructure and associated technology - $170 million to build smart grid, $60 million to "add technology" for expanded services

* $111.5 million in federal stimulus money from U.S. Department of Energy for smart grid implementation.

* Customers can check to see if services are available to their home at www.epbfi.com.

Source: Lacie Newton, marketing spokeswoman, EPB

By Mike Chambers

Correspondent

LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN, Ga. - Agnes Rogers was glad to give construction crews a place to park in her front yard while they worked to string fiber-optic lines near her Vulcan Road home.

"It will be a great thing for the mountain. Most of us have to have expensive satellite dishes," Rogers said.

EPB is installing the fiber-optic lines as part of its efforts to finish the company's multi-million-dollar push into the Internet by the end of the year. Through fiber optics, the company is offering TV, Internet and phone service and EPB is spending $219 million on the system.

Jill Wyse, a neighbor of Rogers', said she hopes the EPB project eventually will bring costs for such services down.

"We're so far back [on the mountain] that for years we just had [channels] 3, 9, and 12 as far as TV stations, so I hope that it's going to bring a competitiveness up here on the mountain to our cable prices and other services," she said.

Work could be completed in such "fringe" service areas by the end of the year, according to Greg Phillips, EPB fiber construction manager. Line work now is under way in Dade and Walker counties in Georgia, northern Hamilton County and toward Graysville and Apison, Tenn., he said.

Phillips said stringing optics lines in areas such as Lookout Mountain presents something of a challenge, including dealing with longer spans, vegetation issues and "poles you can't reach with a bucket truck, (so) you have to climb."

Sometimes four-wheel-drive, all-terrain vehicles are used to help workers navigate the woods and mountainous areas, he said.

"A lot of guys use four-wheelers to save a lot of back injury," Phillips said, instead of "dragging wire through the woods."

Working in woods, ravines and out-of-the-way places can yield to surprises, as well.

Phillips, a line worker himself 20 years ago, said that, back then, they would find people growing marijuana in the rights of way. Now, workers sometimes find "shake-and-bake meth kits" along roadways, he said.

And there are always the critters.

"Snakes, ticks, there are all sort of predators out there," Phillips said.

Line workers told Rogers they killed at least two snakes, possibly copperheads, near her house. To her, that was an added benefit of the work.

"I hope they kill them all," she said. "I'm afraid of sneaking up on snakes, copperheads especially."

Mike Chambers is based in Rising Fawn, Ga. E-mail him at chambers@tvn.net

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