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Knoxville Utilities Board
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New Municipal Broadband Networks Skyrocket in Post-Pandemic America As Alternative To Private Monopoly Model
As the new year begins, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) announced today its latest tally of municipal broadband networks which shows a dramatic surge in the number of communities building publicly-owned, locally controlled high-speed Internet infrastructure over the last three years.
Since January 1, 2021, at least 47 new municipal networks have come online with dozens of other projects still in the planning or pre-construction phase, which includes the possibility of building 40 new municipal networks in California alone.
Knoxville, Tennessee's Knoxville Utility Board (KUB) says it has completed the first phase of its ambitious broadband deployment, bringing affordable fiber access to more than 50,000 premises in this city of 192,000 – many for the very first time.
When we last wrote about KUB back in 2021, the city's utility had just received approval to build what will eventually be the biggest municipal broadband network in the U.S.
All told, the $702 million project, known as KUB Fiber, aims to deliver affordable fiber to 210,000 households across KUB’s 688-square-mile service area, taking between seven and ten years to complete.
KUB says that the first phase of fiber deployment involved the installation of more than 1,100 miles of fiber infrastructure. Upgraded users have the option of three tiers of service: symmetrical gigabit per second (Gbps) service for $65 a month; symmetrical 2.5 Gbps service for $150 a month; and symmetrical 10 Gbps service for $300 a month.
KUB’s service tiers do not come with usage caps or long-term contracts. Unlike many municipal operations, KUB is also offering locals the option of bundling television service.
KUB was driven to expand access after more than a decade of local frustration at the slow speeds, high prices, and spotty coverage caused by a notable lack of competition between regional telecom monopolies, AT&T and Comcast (Xfinity). Both companies have attempted to lock down customers via long-term contracts ahead of the network’s completion.
As one local resident said:
“Comcast thanked me for being a customer for 23 years, but it's not because I've had the option to go anywhere else. They have had 23 years to fix these problems and they haven't."
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.