EPB Fiber Today: 90K+ Subscribers, Lower Power Rates

Congratulations to Chattanooga’s EPB Fiber, which in April exceeded 90,000 subscribers and contributed to lower power rates for all EPB customers.

Savings For Everyone

While the increased subscribership is cause for celebration, an equally important chapter in the story is that EPB lowered power rates by 7 percent as a result of upgrading to a “smart grid.” All EPB customers may not subscribe to EPB Fiber's Internet access, but all electric customers benefit from lower electric rates. Chattanooga’s fiber network operates as the main mode of communications for the grid, while also providing Internet services to businesses and residents.

The grid and fiber combination includes sensors, meters, and switches that enable EPB to track energy use and manage power outages. During one storm in 2013, the grid’s switches reduced outage times by 55 percent, saving EPB $1.4 million. In late April, the area endured severe storms, but network officials estimate the smart grid prevented power outages to 17,800 customers.

In an interview with Christopher last November, EPB’s former President and CEO Harold DePriest detailed how Chattanooga’s fiber network helps bring down costs:

“We built a smart grid on the back of that fiber, and that has very literally cut the number of outages and the length of outages here in Chattanooga by 50 to 60 percent... that one thing is saving our community's businesses somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 to 60 million dollars a year. That's pretty substantial.”

J. Ed. Marston, EPB’s vice president of marketing and communications, said:

"It's proved out a business model that is very effective and one that could be played out on a national level. We've proven that this subscriber-funded model for building both a smart grid and a fiber-optic communications network provides a valuable asset for our community and actually helps to lower power rates."

Surpassing Expectations

The publicly owned electric utility offers speeds of up to 10 gigs to all subscribers in its 600-square mile foot service area and is one of the most celebrated examples of a municipal fiber network and smart grid combination in the United States. The city initially estimated it would need 35,000 subscribers for the network to be profitable; clearly, Chattanoogans’ desire for lightning-fast Internet speeds far exceeds the minimum. "Our original board decision to undertake fiber optics has proven to be very solid and a great asset for our community and our electric system," EPB Chairman Joe Ferguson said Monday.

Learn the details on Chattanooga's story to better connectivity from our 2012 report, Broadband At the Speed of Light: How Three Communities Built Next-Generation Networks. The report highlights the communities of Chattanooga; Lafayette, Louisiana; and Bristol, Virginia.