In the Internet access industry, large corporations typically fight to maintain their positions as monopolies. Even if they have no intention of serving certain communities, big cable and telecom companies work to prevent others from gaining a foothold, fearful that they may someday lose subscribers. On the other hand, municipalities that operate publicly owned networks often encourage, mentor, and collaborate with neighboring communities to get people connected. Now, EPB Fiber Optics in Chattanooga is partnering with municipalities and cooperatives interested in offering Internet access.
Working Past Restrictions
Tennessee still prevents municipal power utilities from offering telecommunications services beyond their electric service areas, but state law won’t deter EPB Fiber Optics from doing what they can. Recently, EPB Vice President of Marketing J. Ed Marsten spoke with Telecompetitor. “We’re partnering with some other municipal and cooperative providers to help them get into the business,” Marston said. “We’ve seen a ton of interest.”
EPB Fiber Optics is offering a range of services to potential utility partners as a way to bring better connectivity to more Tennesseans. In addition to consulting services, the utility may be able to provide transport to an Internet point of presence (POP) and offers tech support. When municipalities or cooperatives work with EPB and use Chattanooga’s staff, they can cut operating costs and reduce the time it takes to begin offering services.
In Massachusetts, Westfield Gas+Electric (WG+E) offers similar services to the nearby rural towns that lack high-quality Internet access. Westfield’s Whip City Fiber, however, is not precluded from offering Internet access via local public infrastructure. Like EPB, WG+E also offers consulting services, if municipalities choose to operate their own networks.
Publicly Minded Moves…So Many
Earlier this year, EPB tripled the speed of their most popular service from 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) symmetrical to 300 Mbps with no price increase. They also decided to drop the price of gigabit service to $67.99 per month. Last fall, EPB celebrated their 100,000th subscription, but now that number has risen to 104,000. And once again, Chattanooga’s famous fiber network made PCMag’s list of fastest ISPs.
While EPB Fiber Optics retains bragging rights about speed, reliability, and affordability, they have also been expanding to rural areas around the city in order to offer the Internet access people need. A quick look at our Community Networks Map reveals that the utility has deployed to several smaller communities, including Ridgeside and Signal Mountain.
Back in 2017, we spoke with Coleman Keane, the Director of Fiber Technology in Chattanooga, who discussed some of the many unexpected benefits derived from the community’s investment. Take a listen: