Tag: "tennessee"

Posted November 18, 2019 by Sayidali Moalim

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently awarded a $2.85 million grant to Forked Deer Electric Cooperative headquartered in Halls, Tennessee, and $9.75 million to Orangeburg County, South Carolina to develop broadband infrastructure. The awardees will use the ReConnect grants to construct or expand existing Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) Internet access to thousands of households, critical community facilities, and educational facilities.

A Reconnect Primer

In 2019, Congress allocated $600 million for the ReConnect Program to help expand high-quality Internet access to rural America. Applicants can apply for a 100 percent grant, 100 percent loan, or a grant-loan combination. The ReConnect Program provides funding to allow for-profit companies, rural cooperatives, local governments, and tribes to deploy broadband infrastructure under specific guidelines. The service area for qualified applicants must be rural communities with 90 - 100 percent of the population considered "underserved," defined as Internet access speeds of 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 1 Mbps upload or lower.

As we reported in September, more than half of the applications submitted came from cooperatives and local governments.

Orangeburg County

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Orangeburg County was awarded federal stimulus funds in 2010 and added around $4 million of their own money for rural broadband projects. Shortly following the stimulus package award, the state legislature enacted a law discouraging simlar local investment. The law requires local governments to charge rates for broadband Internet services similar rates to those of private companies, even if service could be provided at a lower cost. This law effectively limits local broadband authority and discourages communities from developing publicly owned networks.

Orangeburg County is pressing on, however, in order to connect...

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Posted September 17, 2019 by lgonzalez

Even though the state of Tennessee adopted legislation long ago to discourage municipal networks, local communities in the state are finding ways to deliver high-quality Internet access via public utilities. This week, Chief Broadband Officer from BrightRidge Stacy Evans visits with Christopher. They talk about the power utility and their expansive broadband project in eastern Tennessee.

BrightRidge used to be known as the Johnson County Power Board, but limitations changed for the entity when it became an energy authority. Stacy provides some history about the region, the energy authority, and the considerations that contributed to the change. He also describes some of the challenges they’ve faced deploying over a very large area in a multi-phased roll-out that employs both Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) and fixed wireless.

They’re still in the early deployment phases, but BrightRidge is already hearing stories about benefits from subscribers. In addition to sharing a few with us, Stacy talks about how BrightRidge has adopted a layered approach at the premise that will make implementing future innovations easier. He and Christopher review some of the indirect benefits from the network, such as improved service from incumbents and improved electrical services.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 26 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the...

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Posted September 10, 2019 by lgonzalez

This week, we have a returning guest from Tennessee to tell us about the many positive changes occurring in Clarksville, home of CDE Lightband. Christy Batts, Broadband Division Director at the network joins Christopher; her last appearance on the podcast was in 2013.

This time, Christy describes how the community network has been innovating for better services and finding undiscovered benefits for local businesses. Voice service from CDE Lightband, is helping small- and mid-sized establishments cut costs and increase revenue. The city is also implementing a new video platform and continues to increase speeds in order to allow subscribers to make the most of their Internet access.

Christopher and Christy talk about how this town has started using innovations in technology to maximize home Wi-Fi with indoor ONTs. The network has had better then expected financial success, even in a place where people tend to relocate frequently, and how other utilities have reaped benefits from the fiber. Christy gives a run down of the future ideas for Clarksville, including plans for free Wi-Fi in public spaces, such as parks. This may not be the first city you think of when you consider municipal broadband in Tennessee, but maybe it should be.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

This show is 24 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the...

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Posted August 21, 2019 by lgonzalez

When a company processes 180,000 medical claims each year and prides itself on embracing high tech in medical care, access to fiber connectivity is a no-brainer. When a city like Tullahoma offers reliable, fast, and affordable services via their municipal fiber network minus the expense of a big city, it makes sense to bring the company to the town. EnableComp is joining need and solution while creating new jobs in Tullahoma, home of LightTUBe.

Attracted by the Light

EnableComp, headquartered in Franklin, Tennessee, now employs about 240 people who work for the company processing medical claims. Over the next five years, EnableComp will add 200 more positions, all in Tullahoma. They will invest an additional $1 million to develop an office facility.

According to Tullahoma Area Economic Development Corp executive director Thom Robinson, LightTUBe was “a key reason” for the company’s decision to expand in the city of about 19,000 people.

Tullahoma Mayor Lane Curlee said:

“This announcement continues the exciting growth that we are seeing in Tullahoma, and I want to thank EnableComp for their investment in our City. This project brings a diversity of economic growth to our area, and I know the strong development of our infrastructure, including our state-of-the-art Fiber Optic system has prepared us to welcome this company, as well as others that may follow."

The Oasis

EnableComp’s investment in Tullahoma is the latest in a string of economic development results that relate to LightTUBe. Before the city invested in the network, job growth in Tullahoma lagged behind the rest of the state, but within two years after the city began offering broadband, that statistic changed. Job growth in the city doubled Tennessee’s statewide rate.

Since Tullahoma developed the municipal network, they’ve continued to be one of the areas in Tennessee with solid economic development. As...

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Posted August 7, 2019 by lgonzalez

In the Internet access industry, large corporations typically fight to maintain their positions as monopolies. Even if they have no intention of serving certain communities, big cable and telecom companies work to prevent others from gaining a foothold, fearful that they may someday lose subscribers. On the other hand, municipalities that operate publicly owned networks often encourage, mentor, and collaborate with neighboring communities to get people connected. Now, EPB Fiber Optics in Chattanooga is partnering with municipalities and cooperatives interested in offering Internet access.

Working Past Restrictions

Tennessee still prevents municipal power utilities from offering telecommunications services beyond their electric service areas, but state law won’t deter EPB Fiber Optics from doing what they can. Recently, EPB Vice President of Marketing J. Ed Marsten spoke with Telecompetitor. “We’re partnering with some other municipal and cooperative providers to help them get into the business,” Marston said. “We’ve seen a ton of interest.”

EPB Fiber Optics is offering a range of services to potential utility partners as a way to bring better connectivity to more Tennesseans. In addition to consulting services, the utility may be able to provide transport to an Internet point of presence (POP) and offers tech support. When municipalities or cooperatives work with EPB and use Chattanooga’s staff, they can cut operating costs and reduce the time it takes to begin offering services.

In Massachusetts, Westfield Gas+Electric (WG+E) offers similar services to the nearby rural towns that lack high-quality Internet access. Westfield’s Whip City Fiber, however, is not precluded from offering Internet access via local public infrastructure. Like EPB, WG+E also offers consulting services, if municipalities choose to operate their own networks.

Publicly Minded Moves…So Many

Earlier this year, EPB tripled the speed of their most popular service from 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) symmetrical to 300 Mbps with no price increase. They also decided to drop the price of gigabit...

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Posted July 3, 2019 by lgonzalez

Since 2011, PCMag has collected speed data and written about the country’s Fastest ISPs based on download and upload results. This year’s results reflect, once again, that locations with publicly owned broadband infrastructure contribute to communities’ ability to offer faster connectivity.

How They Did It

PCMag asked readers to use a special speed test developed specifically for this reporting that measured download and upload speeds. PCMag's Speed Index assigned to each ISP represented 80 percent download speed and 20 percent upload speed. Filtering out non-U.S. tests, they ended up with 256,016 tests that applied to the comparisons. If, however, a location (for state and regional comparisons) or ISP had fewer than 100 tests, the folks at PCMag did not consider it a contender.

While editors further broke down results so as to stack major ISPs against each other in a head-to-head comparison, they also looked at all the results in a general comparison. PCMag broke down the results further by region and city. For more details on the results, check out the full article.

Munis New and Not-So-New

FairlawnGig in Ohio made the list this year, adding a third municipal Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network to the list. The city’s retail service began serving residents with gigabit connectivity back in 2017, after firmly establishing their fiber services for local businesses.

When contemplating the investment, city leaders adopted the approach that their fiber optic network would be an essential piece of infrastructure on par with sewers or roads. Fairlawn used municipal bonds with no intention of turning a profit; they considered the network an investment that would keep the Akron suburb competitive. Residents, businesses, and institutions in Fairlawn, however, have enthusastically signed up for fast, reliable, connectivity where residents can get gigabit Internet access for $75 per month.

pcmag-2019-fastest.png Fairlawn’s municipal FTTH network will keep company with a veteran to the list — Longmont, Colorado’s...

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Posted May 14, 2019 by lgonzalez

About ten years ago, we first reported on Johnson City, Tennessee. At that time, the community was in the process of installing fiber to improve reliability for their public electric utility. The Johnson City Power Board (JCPB) discussed the possibility of offering broadband via the new infrastructure, but they weren’t quite ready to move forward. Now JCPB has renamed itself BrightRidge and has not only started connecting local subscribers with fiber optic connectivity, but is offering 10 gig symmetrical service.

Past Plans

Johnson City has considered more than one model over the years before realizing the current plan. After initial consideration, they decided to move forward with a public-private partnership to first serve businesses and later residential subscribers. Later, they concluded that a public-public partnership with the Bristol Virginia Utility Authority (BVU) was a better option. After difficulties in Bristol with political corruption and state restrictions, however, that ultimately ended public ownership of the BVU, Johnson City was considering options again.

In 2017, they commissioned a fresh feasibility study to build on lessons learned from their own and others’ experiences and look deeper in the the possibilities of a publicly owned broadband utility.

Johnson City is located between Chattanooga and Bristol. Both cities have fiber infrastructure which has helped spur economic development. Being sandwiched in between these two communities requires Johnson City to be able to compete or contend with the possibility of losing employers and residents who want or need better connectivity. 

The JCPB also decided in 2017 to change their name to BrightRidge; they remain a “not-for-profit, local power company.”

An Eight Year Plan

logo-johnson-city-tn.png In July 2018, BrightRidge...

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Posted May 9, 2019 by lgonzalez

During this legislative session, state lawmakers in several states passed bills that allocated funds to broadband deployment and planning programs. In many states, elected officials are listening to constituents and experts who tell them that they need fast, affordable, reliable connectivity to keep their communities from dwindling. States that refuse funding to public entities, however, block out some of the best opportunities to connect people and businesses in rural areas. In places such as Michigan, Tennessee, and Virginia, states need to trust their own people to develop necessary broadband networks.

The Great Lakes State: Not Great at Supporting Local Broadband

Michigan’s HB 5670 caught the attention of community broadband advocates when it was introduced by Representative Michele Hoitenga in 2018. The bill was firmly anti-municipal network and after some investigation, it became clear that Hoitenga received guidance from lobbyists from big cable and telephone monopolies. HB 5670, with its sad definition of “broadband” and attempt to fork over state funds to big national ISPs didn’t go anywhere alone after word spread.

seal-michigan.png Folks from the Michigan Broadband Cooperative (MBC) and other constituents in rural Michigan voiced their concern and the bill seemed to disappear. In reality, the House folded the language into SB 601, a large appropriations bill, which has now become law. Section 806 lists the types of entities that are eligible to receive grants from the $20 million set aside for infrastructure -- public entities are specifically eliminated.

In Michigan, places such as Sebewaing, and Marshall have already proven that local residents and businesses need gigabit connectivity and that they trust services from their local municipal utility broadband provider. The language of SB 601 as written will also prevent local governments from obtaining...

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Posted April 15, 2019 by Katie Kienbaum

Plans for Holston Electric Cooperative to offer television service as part of its Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network deployment are on pause following allegations from the east Tennessee co-op that broadcasting company Nexstar Media Group refused to engage in “good faith” negotiations over retransmission consent agreements.

Holston Electric Cooperative established its broadband subsidiary, HolstonConnect, in late 2017 after a state law change removed restrictions on rural electric co-ops. Currently, HolstonConnect is in phase one of its FTTH project, which will bring high-quality Internet access to underserved communities in Rogersville, Surgoinsville, and nearby areas. Subsequent deployments will connect the remainder of the cooperative’s service territory, partially aided by federal funding from last year’s Connect America Fund phase II reverse auction.

From the start, the co-op planned to offer a “triple play” of broadband, voice, and video services. However, failure to come to an agreement with Nexstar, one of the nation’s largest station operators, over access to essential local channels has delayed the delivery of television services to HolstonConnect subscribers. In early March, Holston filed a complaint against Nexstar with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), arguing that the broadcasting company demanded exorbitant fees and unfair station tying arrangements during negotiations with the co-op.

“Failure to Negotiate in Good Faith”

To carry popular television programming, networks must sign cable retransmission consent agreements with regional station operators. The FCC requires that these companies behave in “good faith” and make tangible efforts to engage in negotiations.

logo-nexstar-media-group.png Holston claims that Nexstar has not met the...

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Posted March 28, 2019 by lgonzalez

Lenoir City, Tennessee, has actively explored options for broadband for about ten years. After briefly considering broadband over power lines, the Lenoir City Utilities Board (LCUB) decided the time wasn’t right for the utility to offer Internet access to the public. The LCUB, however, is making a move to to open its fiber loop assets to potential partners, hoping to improve service for people in Lenoir City and surrounding areas.

Dark is the Way to Go

At their March 18th meeting, the LCUB members unanimously voted to accept proposals from private sector companies interested in leasing excess capacity on the utility’s fiber loop. According to LCUB general manager Shannon Littleton:

“There’s 80-85 roughly miles of 228-count fiber that’s around the perimeter of our system….We’re utilizing a small percentage of it right now. We plan on using a larger percentage of it in the future. We sat down as a group and decided there’s potentially 100 pair or 200 pair of fiber ... depending on what the board says, that we could put out to the marketplace for a period of time until the electric department decides to take it back for its own use.”

LCUB has already received requests to lease fiber on the network, suggesting potential competition and better options for folks in the rural areas of the LCUB service area. AT&T and TDS Telecom are incumbents with Lenoir City, but in the areas outside of town wired Internet access is difficult to come by.

Feasibility Results

LCUB deployed the fiber ring approximately three years ago for electric utility use, but has since hired a consultant to complete a broadband feasibility study with the asset in mind. The study estimated that Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) for all of LCUB service area premises would cost approximately $127.5 million. While it’s clear that people in rural areas of LCUB territory are lacking options, the more densely populated communities have fiber service from private sector providers. According to Littleton, approximately 13,000 customers are situated within a quarter-mile of the fiber optic ring and LCUB...

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