Powering Up With BrightRidge in Johnson City, Tennessee - Episode 542 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

This week on the show, Christopher is joined by Stacy Evans, Chief Broadband and Technology Officer at BrightRidge, the municipal network for Johnson City, Tennessee. When last we spoke, the electric utility-powered network had just passed its first dozen homes. Three and a half years later, the municipal network has passed more than 10,000 premises. It returns more than $5 million per year to local goverment via payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) (not to mention keeping electric prices low), and has driven both of the incumbent providers to increase speeds and lower prices. Christopher and Stacy talk about the value that's returned to the region, and how BrightRidge is only gaining steam - it's two years ahead of its build schedule, and using grants and Rescue Plan funds to reach thousands of households not accounted for in the original design, ensuring that as many people will get access to affordable, locally owned fiber as quickly as possible.

This show is 32 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed

Transcript below. 

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Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.


Stacy Evans (00:07):
Potential customers is already an electric customer of ours. So we know 'em well, we want to serve 'em well and, and do it right and fiber gets that job done.

Christopher Mitchell (00:17):
Welcome to another episode of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. Ooh, my voice is, it's a little bit strained. <Laugh>. We just came back from the Net Inclusion conference where I recorded more than 20 interviews with folks <laugh>, so I did a bit of talking and but I'm here and I'm excited to talk with Stacey Evans, the Chief Broadband and Technology Officer at Bright Ridge in East Tennessee. Welcome back to the show.

Stacy Evans (00:45):
It's great to be back, Chris.

Christopher Mitchell (00:47):
Yeah, it's, it's wonderful to be talking to you. And the event I was just at this digital equity event, Net Inclusion, I believe it's been announced that it will be in East Tennessee next year and Chattanooga, hopefully I was just thinking this morning, I was wondering if I can get some extra time and maybe I'd love to come up and see you the folks in Morristown, you know, like there's a bunch of folks up there that are doing great work and maybe we can make that happen. So

Stacy Evans (01:13):
That would

Christopher Mitchell (01:13):
Be great. We got a year to plan it. So, <laugh>, yes. Let's start by you telling me what is Bright Ridge?

Stacy Evans (01:21):
All right. So Bright Ridge has been an electric provider in the Johnson City, Tennessee area, Washington County locations since 1945. And then in 2018, we decided to launch a broadband division, which technically launched in 2019. So we, we serve 82,000 electric customers. And for the area, you know, we saw a need for broadband services did some surveys, talked to businesses, schools, individuals. And there's an overwhelming response was we need additional opportunities for services, need better services, higher bandwidth, those things. So we did launch services and, and one of the big things we did, Chris, you might remember this from our previous conversation, three and a half years ago, if you believe that, that

Christopher Mitchell (02:10):
Long ago, right? I meant to say that. I think it was episode 376. I just wanna,

Stacy Evans (02:14):
But yeah, but back then we, we kind of talked that from 12 years, from 2004 to 2016, our electric customers had grown by 12,000, but our kilowatt electric sales had declined during that time. You know, efficiencies of LED lighting and higher sea heat pumps that everybody does, whether they know it or not, their decisions are being more efficient and electric use, that's all great. We, we really liked that, but you know, we're not bringing more revenue in. So by going in broadband business, we had a new opportunity to really reduce that pressure to increase electric rates by having another revenue stream. And, and some examples of that, the success it's been so far we, we actually loan money from electric payback with the interest higher than anything they could obtain. Another investment opportunities they have, we lease backbone fiber they had put in between substations, use that for hours and then build distribution from that.

We pay pole attachment revenues every year. We share the salaries of employees that support both from our CEO on down to billing, accounting you know, all these various departments, human resources. We pay part of the salary now from broadband. It's, you know, appropriated according to their, you know, their involvement. And then we pay rent to the building for the building use. We purchased electricity, all these various things in a few others. But in our first review of this in 2021 physical year, we were 2.5 million benefit to electric 2.6 this previous year. And that will grow every year. So basically our plan is working. That's a great thing, right? And we have jumped two years ahead of schedule our face build out.

Christopher Mitchell (03:50):
That's wonderful. And just to so people fully understand you know, for the history of, of municipal broadband, and particularly I think municipal fiber networks that have been built by the electric utilities, there has been unsubstantiated attacks that you would raid the electric side in order to pay for the broadband. And, and what you were just demonstrating is that in fact, the telecommunications services are subsidizing the electricity prices. So your electricity rates are lower now than they would be if you had not done broadband.

Stacy Evans (04:24):
That is absolutely true. And over time, as we start paying more of our debt off, that money will grow. Especially, you know, as we finish our build and you've got more revenue coming in so forth. So it, the picture just gets brighter every year, which is great.

Christopher Mitchell (04:39):
Yes. And the, our previous conversation was episode 3 74, so I'm sure 3 76 was good too, but 3 74 is when you and I were talking <laugh>.

Stacy Evans (04:47):
Ok. Alright.

Christopher Mitchell (04:49):
And so when you talked previously, you were a little bit early into the buildout, so you're now two years ahead of schedule. Tell us where, where you are with building the network out.

Stacy Evans (04:57):
Yeah, I was looking back. You like, you talked, we, we spoke on September 11th, 2019. We had 38 businesses connect with fiber and two 10 homes, <laugh>, that's, we just got started. That's

Christopher Mitchell (05:09):
Right. So

Stacy Evans (05:09):
Very, very early on, just building out, well in January we went past 10,000 homes and businesses connected and, and actually a thousand of those are businesses to give you an idea of that. So a good take right there. We expect to hit 11,000 next month. So our growth is tremendous. We're adding a a hundred some customers every week. Interest is good. We launched with symmetrical services for all residential products. We, we launched with a 200 meg, a 500 or one gig and a 10 gig. So we were the first to launch and the country said, any customer has our fiber service, can have 10 gig. We, we built it that way and we've changed a little bit. And that that 200 became 300 and 300 and the 500 came 600, but all the rest stayed the same. We lowered the price on the one gig from $300 down to 149.99 to make it very attractive.

And it was really interesting. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal just a couple months ago talking about Johnson City being a destination. People were moving to, to telecommute, you know, do the jobs from home, moving out state and so forth to here. And one of the big things that the real estate person said was, the main reason they're moving here is the access to broadband. Who would've ever thought about that some years ago? What kind of difference that make? So it's tremendous to see that and see the interest in the products that we've got. You'd ask about, you know, kind of advancing our services. And we have, we jumped ahead two years. We had an eight phase build out plan, and we will actually commit finish all the committed areas next year. So that's ahead of schedule. Plus we've added additional communities that were not actually planned to be on the radar for deployment of fiber services. And one of the other changes we made, we, we launched with a fixed wireless product in some rural areas. And, you know, that was a decent stop gap when there was nothing else. But our intentions are to overbuild a hundred percent of our customers over time with fiber to get them the full experience they can get with broadband,

Christopher Mitchell (07:10):
With the wireless. Is that something that you've tried different wireless products along the way too? Because, you know, there's a lot of talk about Toronto and, and I'm curious if you had experimented with that or if you stuck with what you were using before Toronto was on the market?

Stacy Evans (07:26):
Well, we launched with an LTE based product, so definitely fixed wireless. We attached to some cell towers and, you know, try to stay within a, a three mile radius at most from that to, you know, to really kinda keep it dense. The problem in our area is we are in the rolling hills, east Tennessee

Christopher Mitchell (07:43):
Doesn't sound like a problem to me, <laugh>. Yeah, no,

Stacy Evans (07:46):
It's a beautiful place to live. Great place from that perspective. But when you're trying to get wireless signal and those, you know, 3.65 gigahertz and above, especially gigahertz 60 gigahertz, you think about tele telegraph and some of the other products out there, very line of sight. So if you can't see that home from the tower, you can't serve it. And the thing is, I might be able to serve one customer, but then their neighbor has a hill in front of them, I can't serve 'em. And they get frustrated. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Well, the great thing about fiber, we know that we can serve a hundred percent of the customers we bill past that we can give 'em up to 10 gig services today and in the future we can give 'em 25 or 50 gig or whatever the standards become. Say just a big difference there. And what you can really give the customer expectations for and, and avoid that frustrations of, well, my neighbor got it, why can't I get it? Don't understand.

Christopher Mitchell (08:35):
Yeah. Because you have that universal service mindset. You, you wanna make sure that everyone has that same service. You know, you're, you're democratically accountable to these folks. So sure. There's a bit of a bit of a pressure on you on for that.

Stacy Evans (08:48):
It is. And every one of those customers, potential customers is already an electric customers of ours. So we know 'em well, we want to serve 'em well and, and do it right. And, and fiber gets that job done. Wireless has, its, you know, it has its position where there's nothing else, but it definitely doesn't provide the end game that fiber does.

Christopher Mitchell (09:07):
And so people are aware, this is, these are areas where you're, you're in some fairly dense cities where probably where you got a lot of those thousand businesses that you hooked up. And then, and then you're in quite rural areas as well,

Stacy Evans (09:20):
That that is true. So in Johnson City, you know, you've got two cable providers that we compete against every day. National brands that you would recognize. We've got incumbent ILEC that provides DSL services, some limited fiber in for certain areas and we compete with them very well every day. And then we go into the rural areas where some customers have nothing but maybe you know, maybe they're lucky to get a five meg by half a meg up or something. And so it just changed their life, you know, during Covid we saw all those changes, people that tried to work from home but couldn't, and we stood up wifi, you know, locations, provide public Wi-Fi to people, things like that. But you know, that just doesn't get the job done. They were still having to travel, you know, to an area they could use for high speed services.

Christopher Mitchell (10:05):
So how did the, the pandemic hit, I'm sure you know, if you go back to that time, I'll bet if we look back to it's almost three years ago now, right? To the, to the days you're probably looking at that and thinking, oh, we're have this schedule and now we, we probably can't go into customers homes. How are we gonna, how are we gonna meet this? Walk us through like just how you probably had a range of emotions over the first six months of the pandemic <laugh>

Stacy Evans (10:30):
We did, cuz we were just new to the business, right? We just launched there in the middle of 2019, and here in 2020 the pandemic hits. We didn't know if customers would allow us into their homes. We didn't know we could complete the activations and install. So a lot of question marks there. But, you know, we did the right things. We had our employees and technicians wire the masks. They would ask the customers, they were comfortable, ask if they waited in different room when they were working in the environment. We did all those things. And, and be honest with you, we never had a real problem. So we kind of planned ahead for it, but it did not become an issue. The biggest problem we had was those that really needed services, like students that had to be at home to educate and had no broadband at all.

I mean mm-hmm. <Affirmative> had nothing close to 25 mega three at all. And so again, we stood up these towers, did some Wi-Fi services, things like that. One of the great things that we were able to accomplish with that is we through the state of Tennessee, the Tennessee e c d group had some grants available there in late 2020. And so in three months we built 70 miles of fiber distribution to get to 556 homes that previously had no services available. And that was one area, another location had 91 homes, but had nothing available. And there's some people that had recently moved there from other states and didn't ask the question is, they've all been available and here they go, they're expecting to work from home, it is impossible. And they're having to travel to the Lowe's or Walmart parking lots, you know, in Johnson City or Jonesboro and work remotely.

And so it becomes such thing. So I, I mean, we, we heard the conversations when we turned up broadband, they got emotional and said, man, this changes my life. You know, all of a sudden now I can do my work or I can, my kids can educate, they can do what they need. So it was a, as you know, it's just an incredible time. But we were glad to be part of those solutions. And we still have some needs. There's some areas of our county that we're hoping to get some grant money for in the next opportunities with Bead to address. They're still unserved about 1,800 in Washington County in a couple hundred in Green County.

Christopher Mitchell (12:31):
And so people are aware, this is one of the interesting pieces of Tennessee, I feel like in the state government is that the state has a law from before the year 2000. That means you're not able to serve anyone that is outside of your electric service plant. I love this part. You're not, you're not allowed to give them advanced services. So in theory, you could build out and offer them like 40 megabit service, but nothing faster than that as I, as I read the law. But, but but the state has, has nonetheless recognized that you're a valid entity to be getting grant money to be solving this problem within your electric territory. So it's sort of like a, you know not a frenemy, but there's a, there's some tension there in that relationship. <Laugh>

Stacy Evans (13:11):

Christopher Mitchell (13:12):
So in the, in the state of Tennessee, I mean, I think this is this is remarkable. You got, you got Knoxville going on, you got Erwin you know the BVU in Tennessee is has been going strong forever. You have Chattanooga, just, I, I'm, and then Lenore City I think is in that, is that region as well. There's a lot of investment, a lot of investment from the, the cities and the, the municipal electrics to make this happen.

Stacy Evans (13:37):
There really is. And then just recently, Greenville Light and Power our Greenville Energy Authority, now they have decided to launch business. So that'll be happening in the next several months. So that's our neighbors. And the great thing is we've been able to work with these neighbors, Irwin and Morristown, some of the others, to collaborate to get some large pipes to the co-location centers in Ashburn, Virginia. We're 70% of the world's internet goes through also at Marietta Street in Atlanta, Georgia. So appearing at those locations, cutting down on the, the latency on the, the traffic itself obtaining bandwidth at lower cost point, and we're sharing those opportunities, these others, so everybody wins, you know, it reduces our cost to be there. It saves them money on services. So we like to try to be that a good local regional partner will work with all these entities.

Christopher Mitchell (14:22):
I, I didn't prepare you for this, but it's a, it sort of pops into my head when I, when I look at places across the United States, there's often tension between different towns. They don't wanna work together on different things everywhere. And then we often find that broadband is an area where they're more willing to work together. But still, sometimes there's really, you know, I don't know if it's like an old high school rivalry or, or what, but there's real tension sometimes where they don't wanna work together. But in, in Tennessee, it feels like y'all work together pretty well. Is there something that makes that happen?

Stacy Evans (14:51):
You know, I'm not sure really what the camaraderie is, but you're right, we have a great relationship with all those entities. During Covid supply chain obviously impacted everybody. There was times that we provided materials to some of those peers we're talking about in other areas, even in Middle Tennessee. And same way they were able to provide us some equipment that we couldn't get. So that really benefited everybody having that collaboration opportunity to share what somebody else needed. And, and we got to reciprocate that times. There was one opportunity that we provided some residential gateway routers to group out Middle Tennessee. And then a little later we were short on some optimal network terminals, ONTs, and they were able to pay us back, you know, so those relationships are important and, and again, we don't compete so there's no reason not to work to everybody's benefit in that. And Tennessee is a great opportunity to do that for sure.

Christopher Mitchell (15:42):
Now, you mentioned you're two years ahead, but the, I assume you had to slow down a bit during the pandemic. I'm guessing you were able to ramp up then afterward. In part you have these grants that that helps a bit. But how do you, what do you attribute being two years ahead in your business plan to,

Stacy Evans (15:57):
Well, first of all, we didn't slow down to a pandemic at all. Oh,

Christopher Mitchell (16:00):
You didn't? Okay.

Stacy Evans (16:01):
We did not. We stayed on course and and probably if anything, we accelerated cuz we added some unplanned grant building area onto the planned phases. We're building simultaneously broad additional crews in and so forth. So we really didn't slow down at all. But now the grants helped because here's the great thing about it. When you're in a rural portion of the county, and this was at the edge of Green County, there are locations in between that and where our main fiber was at. So we're able to go back on that middle mile fiber and multiply that. So that impact that was gonna be 556 homes in one area, 91, the other all of a sudden became more than a thousand customers impacted because we invested our dollars. And that middle Mile provided more services along that route. Cause it enabled us, right? Because the, the cost of getting the fiber there was covered.

Now we could build out distribution. So that's one thing we've shared with the state here in granted opportunities is a look and see when someone like us that's applying for grants take that money and use it for more than just what the grant says. What else can we build off of that in the future mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and, and that, and that was a great accomplishment and we would like to do the same thing with the next opportunity and it would actually be in the very similar position to get additional customers along those paths. So it, I've told our board before tho that one grant, and it wasn't a large amount, it was 2.47 million total. So it wasn't a super large grant, but it was a gift that kept giving because we have built off of that additional services at the point now, again, well over a thousand customers that we could serve there.

Christopher Mitchell (17:31):
And I think people should probably be aware, and you could tell me if I'm totally wrong about this, but I would imagine that you could have done that grant and you could have saved yourself money if you were only interested in maximizing revenue by probably using some long haul fiber. And but instead you invested in distribution system in which you would be able to break that out in the future. Because I'm sure that putting those breakout points increased your cost of building to those more rural homes.

Stacy Evans (17:58):
It it did. And you know, if you look at those rural areas, if you're looking at a cost per passing it, it is inflated. Sometimes it can be five times the typical cost of passing customer in an urban area. So if you're looking at pure economics, it, it's not the first place you're going. But the grant matching allows you to get there and again, accelerate the other growth in between as well. So that was one thing. It did make a difference. We also worked with the city of Johnson City and we looked at a study and found out that one of the areas that really needed broadband was much later in our phases. And it wasn't by any particular reason other than that was the way the design was set up from when we started. But we looked at that and said, you know, this is a, the highest concentration of poverty area in our service locations.

Can we pull that forward? And the city was willing to put 2.3 million worth of ARPA money to match us to help do that in advance. So some of those things really just pull things forward to help us get that completed early. And then through the, a CCP program provides $30 credit a month, and then we also launched a 100 meg product just for those customers that would, you know, make it a zero cost to out of pocket per month. And so this really meets a need and we hope can impact that entire area because not only do we see high poverty, we saw studies that we partnered with some groups to, to look at that found that educational challenges were higher in those areas because they didn't have broadband access. They couldn't do their homework at home. So, you know, that's in metro part of Johnson City that's not out in the county.

So they had broadband, they couldn't afford it, right? They have available. So these combination of things have really helped that area and we're we're actually just a couple weeks away from finishing that build that helped accelerate that. The other thing that we've done too is if we if we definitely got an area finished early, we would look at opportunity. Can we add something onto that with the same money and efficiency is part of it. So I'll, I'll give kudos to our engineering team that's all on site or on staff and the guys are building it. They look at every opportunity. How can I pass more customers for the same amount of money? Is there a way I can get a different route here? Is there some way I could pass it? So we looked at all those things and, and just through efficiencies, through the grants, through all the things we're doing, partnering with the city has really helped us accelerate that. And now we're planning on adding another community in Colonial Heights there and part of Kingsport area to the list that wasn't planned to be fibers. So now that's added some other parts of the county that weren't on the radar as well.

Christopher Mitchell (20:30):
So you, you have 82,000 electric customers. Do you have a sense of about how many without receiving additional grant funds, you're gonna be able to pass with fiber?

Stacy Evans (20:40):
That's a great question. And our business plan had expected us to pass 36,000 homes with fiber over an eight year plan. Okay, we'll have that done in six years. And within the eight year time we will pass 47,000 customers with fiber. And that's really not even anticipating any additional grants beyond what we've participated on with the state on and the Johnson City. If we get other opportunities that will accelerate more. So, so basically we've added onto that 11,000 additional homes that were not scheduled to have fiber at all. Now. It's not that we didn't have a goal, it's sometime in the future come back and building once we had the, the cash flow coming in and paid off our debt and all that. But this made it happen in the same time window for those 8,000 homes and businesses that we had planned to do much less.

Christopher Mitchell (21:33):
Now what else is benefiting the community? I feel like you know might be a little greedy here for more stories cause you've already given us several, but I'm curious if there's anything else. You know, you've mentioned the article about folks moving to town because of the fiber and are there, are there any other anecdotes that come to mind?

Stacy Evans (21:50):
Well, we've worked with several businesses that have acknowledged having that available, had attracted them to the area and have connectivity especially where we co-located those two main centers in Atlanta and Ashburn gives us opportunity to do layer two service connections anywhere in the world and a very competitive cost. You know, and before we really came into business, Johnson City, the three incumbents, primary incumbents for broadband were very bandwidth constrained. We came in and built multiple hundred gig paths both direction and opened the pipes up, right? So it changed the game. And, and you know what, by us going into business, even if a customer doesn't take our service, they benefit because the competitors had to be more competitive. They've had to increase their data rates somewhat. Still they're asymmetric compared to our symmetric services, but they've lowered the prices. So everybody has benefited.

Competition's a great thing, right? It's a great thing to have. And so I think everyone in the community's benefited. We talk about their electric customers have benefited by reducing the pressure to increase electric rates. We've been involved with several other projects that this has allowed us to do in partnering for economic development. We've committed, you know, we pay back in lieu of taxes to the county and the cities. There's new revenues coming in there. We're the largest if you want to say in lieu of taxpayer that those two entities have. And broadband has continued to grow that on top of electric's taxes. And so all those things are great stories. Again, we've seen tremendous growth in the region construction left and right and every time we have someone building new subdivision, the first thing that come, how quickly can you get fiber in there?

Right? And of course they're all undergrads. You got a plan for that. So that's one of the things in our budgeting we have to really allocate for is these unexpected growths. We know where our phases are at, but when they pop up, you know, 300 more homes here in the area that didn't exist before. And that was a really, a lesson learned. I've kind of taken attention here, but that was a lesson learned when we, in a former network that I helped build from 2002 to 2018 or so we expected maybe a 35, 40% take rate and we built the fiber accordingly and we quickly exceeded that and had come back and over last more. Well, we built it 110% capacity here. And, and with that, obviously some of that can be feed fiber, traditional cabinets and so forth. And I'm glad we did cause it really has helped us tremendously.

And it's not that we've got a hundred percent of customers taking it, but to give you an idea, phase one, 43% of our customers that could take it have taken services 41% in our second phase, 40% in our third phase, and 25% in the fourth phase that just finished last June. So our growth has been great. We got a great team. We we really see word of mouth being a big part of our sales. Actually 17% of our sales every week come from people referring their neighbors say, Hey, this is a great service you should look at. So we're very pleased with that, you know, when it helps sell itself, that's, that's a great thing to have. We do rely on door-to-door salespeople. We've have found that you really gotta be in front of the customer to show them the difference. Explain things to 'em.

Everybody's not technical. Most people don't understand the difference between symmetrical services where the download and upload are equal versus asymmetric that the incumbent providers don't tell you that, right? Okay, you get Meg down, but it's only five or 10 up. They don't tell you the five or 10 limitation, right? So educating customers is a big part of what we do and it really raises the game for them and understand what they can do. And, and I remember back in 2018, we had some public hearings for the community to tell 'em what we're planning on doing, getting opinions, all those things. And I, I told 'em at that time, some PowerPoints we did, I said, the internet in the past years has been a pool technology. You, you looked at a web website, you pulled data down, you downloaded things, but I said, it's flipping on its head. You're becoming the content creator. You're creating, the videos are getting stored in the cloud, you're creating, the photos are getting uploaded, all those various things. And we're seeing that right? Upload becomes critically important. And especially when you're talking about people working from home, telecommuting, remote education, telehealth services, all those various activities.

Christopher Mitchell (26:02):
There's a couple of things I wanna pull out from there to emphasize for folks. So when you're talking about the, in lieu of taxes, and my wife and I argue about whether we should abbreviate, abbreviate a pilot for payments in lieu of taxes, or she prefers ILO for just in lieu of taxes. Yeah, opinions vary across the, the finance professionals in the United States. And but that's money, that's taxpayer dollars that, that you're offsetting. And so people don't always appreciate that, that these municipal electric utilities they generate revenue. Now you're generating more revenue and, and you make these payments to the city that allows the city to do more without having to increase the tax burden on the local businesses or the residents. And that's, that's pretty important,

Stacy Evans (26:45):
You know, it really does. It's, it's incredible how much we pay. So lemme give you just a quick idea. In the last five years Bright Ridge has paid 28 million in lieu of taxes to local government. Yeah, that's, that's a big number. Each year we write a check to Johnson City for 4.4 million and, and to the county for 1.3 million. So again, you're right, the, those are monies that come back to the region. And that's the nice thing about being a municipal or, you know, energy authority is that revenues that come in, they don't go to some NFL City and stockholders. It stays in this community. And once our eight phase are built out, it continues to stay here to build to customers that may live in the rural parks that may are overlooked by a grant or maybe they don't have sufficient services that we can extend services to. So really it opens up a lot of things in the future that's gonna benefit customers that we probably can't even tap right now to think, think about.

Christopher Mitchell (27:44):
Right. And as you just de detailed a few minutes ago as well, the people that are in between the areas that are served by grants are getting served by that. Now, when you mentioned the new subdivisions and things like that, I think people need to appreciate that when you're gonna do this big build over eight years, as you have a plan, you borrow a certain amount of money and, and we all think, oh, new subdivision, great. It is a lower cost of billing to a subdivision than to a neighborhood that's already been built up, but there's still a cost associated to it. And so you gotta find on the order of, I'm sure more than a thousand dollars per home that, you know, sure you're gonna have a good return on that, but you have a cash flow situation where you have to get equipment on the side of the house and in the ground. And so that can be a real challenge.

Stacy Evans (28:25):
You're exactly right. And, and typically your numbers are really close there. I mean, you talked about the passing build, talk about the electronics to enable the customer once they activate services. The labor in both those is the biggest component really, to be honest. Whether it be construction fiber activate the customer, turning up all those things they do you know, it's costly and, and you're making that investment there anticipating, you know, a good take rate. And the great thing is we've, we've seen that, we've seen the customers really you know, appreciate the difference in the products and raising that bar for everyone else. And, and I'm so glad we were able to launch with 10 gig services and was it that everybody needed it? Absolutely not. But it made it available to those that did. And it brought, attracted people to the community that otherwise John City may not have been on the radar to move here. And we saw a big influx and continue to see that of people moving to the locations.

Christopher Mitchell (29:18):
I mean, you're those electronics, you're hopefully not gonna touch them in five years you know, for more than five years. And in five years, who knows, you might have more people that are, that are using that when I'm, you know, if I had it available here, I'll admit I probably would not get more than a gigabit right now. But as soon as we see like kind of consumer grade gear that is affordable to move 10 gigs, like I'm, I'd probably be getting it because I'm doing some of that stuff. I'm pushing video up into the cloud and it turns around. If I'm trying to move 300 gigabytes of information to a client or to someone that I'm working with a vendor so that they can turn our raw footage into a cool video, I don't want that to take all night.

Stacy Evans (29:54):
Oh, you're exactly right. And when we first launched it, we knew that businesses would be the main user and they were, that's absolutely the case there. But to make it available that any residential customer could take it, and they did, you know, we started seeing it grow, especially as we reduced that rate to make it more affordable, I think we're the lowest 10 gig symmetric residential service in the country at less than $150. So but it, it's, you know, it's not, when you think about what people have paid before for their entertainment costs and all those things per month, $150 is not that big of a, of a push plus later on your third party streaming video services. Not that terrible.

Christopher Mitchell (30:30):
Well, Stacy, it's been wonderful catching up with you. I salute the work that you're doing and thank you for your time today.

Stacy Evans (30:35):
Well, thank you, Chris. Enjoyed it.

Ry Marcattilio (30:37):
We have transcripts for this and other podcasts available at muni networks.org/broadbandbits. Email us@podcastmuninetworks.org with your ideas for the show. Follow Chris on Twitter, his handles at communitynets follow muni networks.org, stories on Twitter, the handles at muni networks. Subscribe to this and other podcasts from I lsr, including building Local Power Local Energy Rules, and the Composting for Community Podcast. You can access them anywhere you get your podcasts. You can catch the latest important research from all of our initiatives if you subscribe to our monthly newsletter@ilsr.org. While you're there, please take a moment to donate your support in any amount. Keeps us going. Thank you to Arne Hughes B for the song, warm Duck Shuffle, licensed through Creative Commons. This was the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Thanks for listening.