KUB Fiber On Track To Reach 55,000 Fiber Customers By Year’s End

KUB logo

Knoxville Utilities Board remains on track to construct one of the biggest municipal broadband deployments ever attempted, and hopes to have delivered affordable fiber access to 55,000 Knoxville households and businesses before the end of the year.

In 2021, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the state Comptroller’s office signed off on the utility’s long percolating plan to build a $702 million million fiber network.

Once completed, the network will provide affordable fiber access to 214,000 households across KUB’s 688-square-mile service area spanning Knox, Grainger, Union, and Sevier counties.

20,000 KUB customers in Inskip, Morningside, Park City and other parts of East Tennessee have already received access to the network, which provides residential customers with symmetrical gigabit fiber for $65 a month, symmetrical 2.5 gigabit service for $150 a month, and symmetrical 10 Gbps for $300 a month.

Business customers currently receive the option of a symmetrical 500 megabits tier for $85 a month, a symmetrical gigabit tier for $150 a month, or a Custom Connect Pro plan tailored to specific business bandwidth and reliability needs.

Despite Covid-related supply chain challenges, officials say the project remains on time and within budget. An estimated 35,500 more households should receive access over the next few months, with 55,000 total customers connected before the end of the year. The utility is promising to track project progress via an online deployment map.

KUB deployment map

"We're moving as fast as we can," Director of KUB fiber operations Andrew Hmielewski recently told the Knoxville News Sentinel. "We're really trying to get as many customers as possible and people are excited for (KUB Fiber) to be here."

The project, currently nearing the halfway point of its ten year projected deployment length, was started thanks to a $35 million loan by the utilities’ electrical division. The remainder of the deployment will be financed by grants and consecutive annual electric rate increases of 3 percent, starting last year.

Knoxville Sunsphere

“More than half of the revenue from the [electric] rate increases will fund previously planned electric system improvements” and “the long-term impact of funding the fiber network is $3.60 on the average residential monthly bill,” the KUB Fiber business plan states.

The Knoxville project was unsurprisingly inspired by the success of Chattanooga’s EPB Fiber, which helped spur a $2.69 billion return on the original project investment for the city thanks to the resulting boost in affordable broadband access, entrepreneurial opportunities, jobs, and overall operational efficiencies.

Independent analysis of KUB’s plan found that the network could result in an $18 million to $85 million increase in Tennessee incomes per year thanks to long term cost savings. Project officials also projected $4.7 million in additional revenue to the city of Knoxville, in addition to significant financial benefits to local area businesses.

Once completed, the KUB Fiber network will not only be dramatically larger than the Chattanooga network that inspired it, it will easily become the biggest municipal broadband network in the nation. 

Inline image of Knoxville Sunsphere courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)