Greeneville, TN: Electric Utility Powers Up School Connectivity

Schools in Greeneville, Tennessee, are about to save on Internet connectivity to the tune of $50,000 per year, thanks to a partnership with the municipal electric utility.

Local Utility, Local Solution

Greeneville City Schools (GCS), which obtains Internet access via the state’s Education Networks of America (ENA), used to obtain cable connections from big providers that worked with ENA. Comcast and CenturyLink are two of the local providers that lease lines to the schools with ENA as the entity that arranged the connections. Not anymore.

GCS, ENA, and the Greeneville Light & Power System (GLPS) have entered into a new partnership to use GLPS fiber-optic infrastructure to bring Internet access to school facilities. As a result, the school will cut telecommunications costs by approximately $50,000 per year and double their capacity.

Assistant Director of Schools and Chief Technology Officer Beverly Miller told the Greeneville Sun:

“GCS is extremely pleased and excited about moving network fiber optic cabling dependence to the local community power provider. GLPS is an exceptional electrical provider with a stellar reputation for reliability and high performance. In addition to the expectation of improved service, the school district anticipates significant financial savings as a result of this new partnership.”

According to GLPS General Manager Bill Carroll, the utility already had significant infrastructure in place, which it uses for its own facilities. Connecting GCS schools and administration facilities wasn’t a difficult undertaking. In fact, GLPS hopes to reproduce the plan for the Greene County Schools to reduce their costs in a similar fashion:

“We have 2,200 miles of high voltage (power) lines and just 60 miles of fiber, mostly in the city,” Carroll said. “We’ve been routing fiber very carefully to pass by government buildings, schools and other folks we can serve in the future. At some point, we can do the same for Greene County’s schools and government buildings, but it’s a matter of logistics.”

Starting With The Schools


When local schools reduce costs by partnering with municipal utilities like GLPS, they are able to redirect connectivity dollars to other areas that need funding. It’s also easier to budget when a school district can anticipate future costs. Large corporate providers such as Comcast and CenturyLink often raise connectivity prices unexpectedly, but GLPS is likely to keep prices steady. Unlike the national companies, a municipal utility’s first priority is to provide a local service.

Schools are often some of the first entities that benefit when a community chooses to connect public facilities or anchor institutions. Sometimes schools use E-rate federal program funds to pay for infrastructure investment and partner with local government. Over the long term, schools can save millions, get much better services, and take control of their budgeting.

Martin County, Florida; Erie and Ottawa in Kansas; and Monticello, Illinois, are just a few examples of creative partnerships that involve school districts and local government. The results? Millions of public dollars redirected from the cost of leased lines to educational programs.

Revolutionary Namesake

Greeneville, located in the northeast section of the state, is home to about 15,000 residents. The city, named in honor or of Revolutionary War hero Nathanael Greene (“The Fighting Quaker”) is steeped in history. President Andrew Johnson began his political career here by serving as alderman and mayor and the community’s historic district still maintains a number of historically and architecturally significant buildings. Greeneville is the county seat.

GLPS serves about 37,500 customers in Greene County but also reaches portions of Cocke and Washington Counties. The city started the utility in 1945 after it had purchased a power and light company from the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Photo of Greeneville's Doughty House by Steven C. Price (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.