CHATTANOOGA, TN — About 9 years after bringing fiber internet service to its first residential customers in September 2009, EPB Fiber Optics, a municipally-owned utility that provides electric power and fiber optic communications services, has exceeded 100,000 residential and business customers.
Smart Grid Backbone
In addition to providing gigabit internet speeds, EPB’s 9,000-mile fiber optics network serves as the backbone for Chattanooga’s smart grid, which is the nation’s most advanced electric distribution system. In 2010, the community-wide fiber optics network allowed EPB Fiber Optics to become the first provider in the nation to make 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps) internet services available to all residences and businesses across it 600-square mile service area. In 2015, EPB Fiber Optics upped the ante again by offering 10 Gbps internet services available to all residences and businesses as a standard offer.
“Our fiber optics network is today’s locomotive that is driving Chattanooga’s success and positioning us as a model for other communities,” said Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. “It is a powerful recruiting tool to attract new businesses that need reliable, high quality power and communications, as well as a catalyst for launching startups and expanding our existing businesses.”
Since EPB Fiber Optics began serving customers, Chattanooga’s fiber optics network and smart grid have provided a number of community benefits:
- Power Outage Reduction: The Smart Grid has reduced the incidence and duration of power outages by more than 285 million customer minutes. This is the result of reducing the incidence and duration of power outages by more than 50 percent. For a market the size of EPB’s service area, this is equivalent to saving customers more than $50 million per year by helping them avoid lost productivity, spoiled food, and other negative impacts.
- Keeping electric rates lower: Each year, EPB Fiber Optics pays EPB Electric tens of millions of dollars for the use of the electric system’s fiber optics network and shared costs. These payments keep electric rates significantly lower for every EPB Electric customer whether they subscribe to fiber optics services or not.
- Providing Millions of dollars for Local Schools and Local Government Services: EPB is by far the largest contributor to local schools and local government services with annual payments that have more than doubled since deploying the smart grid. EPB’s annual payments to Hamilton County, the City of Chattanooga, and other local governments now total $20.9 million annually. Since deploying the fiber optics network, EPB has paid more than $172 million for local schools and government services.
Serving as a catalyst for Job Creation: Prior to the deployment of Chattanooga’s fiber optics network, the community was not considered a hotspot for start-up activity. Since then, Chattanooga’s Gig Network along with successful efforts to attract investment for start-ups and entrepreneurial support from organizations like The Enterprise Center, Co.Lab, and the Hamilton County Business INCubator have combined to create a blossoming entrepreneurial environment where dozens of new start-ups are rapidly creating new jobs.
Field-testing New Best Practices and Technologies
Additionally, Chattanooga’s fiber optics network serves as a living laboratory for EPB to work with the U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and other national laboratories and researchers to field-test new best practices and technologies including the utilization of a smart grid to dynamically manage renewable power generation, cutting-edge energy storage, power factor management, the establishment of and utilization of microgrids, the use of remote sensors, and more.