EPB Lays Out Plans To Provide All Of Bradley County With High-Speed Internet, TV Service; Cost Is Up To $60 Million

Thursday, March 5, 2015 - by Mark Pace

In what was hailed as a big win for rural Bradley Countians, EPB officials laid out a plan Thursday night to reach the community with currently unavailable high-speed internet.

EPB CEO Harold DePrist told a capacity crowd at the Bradley County Courthouse that the expansion would serve roughly 1,000 people, about 800 of whom have no current option other than dial-up.

The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 last week to overrule Tennessee law and allow EPB to expand its fiber optic service.

Now, EPB is waiting on the exact wording of the ruling prior to seeking to work out legal and technical issues.

However, EPB is still restricted and unable to serve outside its elected service area due to current state laws in place, Mr. DePriest said. EPB will offer fiber optic service to the county if current legislation, Senate Bill 1134 or House Bill 1303, pass and allow any Internet provider to serve anyone in the state of Tennessee, he stated.

“We have people who live within half a mile of our service territory … who have nothing but dial-up, and that doesn’t make any sense” Mr. DePriest said. “In a lot of cases we can get to those areas fairly easily.”

Mr. DePriest is counting on state legislators to pass the bills and is confident it will happen relatively quickly. He has the backing of several key legislators who attended the meeting.

 The legislation would remove territorial restrictions and provide the clearest path possible for EPB to serve customers and for customers to receive high-speed internet.

State Rep. Dan Howell, the former executive assistant to the county mayor of Bradley County, was in attendance and called broadband a “necessity” as he offered his full support to helping EPB, as did Tennessee State Senator Todd Gardenhire.

“We can finally get something done,” Senator Gardenhire said. “The major carriers, Charter, Comcast and AT&T, have an exclusive right to the area and they haven’t done anything about it.”

Rep. Howell and Mr. DePriest said they are unsure of exactly when the vote will take place, but Rep. Howell said it would be before the Tennessee legislators take a recess in mid-April.

Joyce Coltrin, a member of the group “Citizens Striving to be Part of the 21st Century, said, “I am hearing many legislators today talking about states’ rights and saying that the Federal Communications Commission has no right to go around state laws concerning the internet. I suggest that the logical extension of that thought would be that a state has no right to go around its commitment to the betterment of its citizens by denying access to the internet.”

Ms. Coltrin, Rep. Howell and Mr. DePriest and others urged those in Bradley County to write to their representatives in Nashville and tell them why they need high-speed internet.

President and CEO of Cleveland Utilities Ken Webb also spoke in support of EPB’s plan. “This is the most exciting thing that I know has come about in broadband in Cleveland and Bradley County in years, so we’re certainly behind this,” he said.

If the legislation is passed, EPB will move quickly, Mr. DePriest said. In four months, EPB would be able to start construction on the project. The eventual goal of EPB is to provide for all of Bradley County. For comparison, EPB covered 600 square miles with the fiber optic cables in two and half years in Hamilton County.

Mr. DePriest said EPB will not use taxpayer money. The project will cost $50 million-$60 million to cover the county and EPB will have to “raise some money,” he said.

“We paid for (the Hamilton County project) with our own resources, and it’s paying off quite well,” Mr. DePriest said.

 He pointed out that in some of the most rural areas the company would be lucky to come out even, but EPB will still be able to conduct business in the county because it will still make an overall profit in Bradley County.

De-bundled internet packages from EPB range from $58 to $70, Mr. DePriest said amid cheers from the crowd. Many in attendance pay more than twice that amount for much slower service, they said.

For further information and questions about EPB and its potential service in Bradley County, the company will send information to those interested. To receive information, contact EPB.

 

 


Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ANDERSON, MICHAEL JERMAINE  604 TUNNEL BOULEVARD CHATTANOOGA, 37411  Age at Arrest: 44 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga CONTEMPT OF COURT CONTEMPT OF COURT CONTEMPT OF COURT CONTEMPT OF COURT CONTEMPT OF COURT CONTEMPT OF COURT CONTEMPT OF COURT CONTEMPT OF COURT CONTEMPT OF ... (click for more)

Governor Haslam Applauds Passage Of IMPROVE Act That Is Headed To His Desk

Governor Bill Haslam on Monday praised passage of the IMPROVE Act, a key piece of his NextTennessee legislative plan. He said it "gives the largest tax cut in Tennessee history and makes the state more competitive in recruiting manufacturing jobs while delivering a safe, reliable and debt-free transportation network for the next generation of Tennesseans." Governor Haslam said, ... (click for more)

No Tax-Supported Entity Should Get Secrecy In Spending

A shadowy situation has emerged in Chattanooga with an organization that manages millions of taxpayer dollars with no transparency and such a surprising disregard for accountability that one wonders what it would take to wake up elected officials who are supposedly in charge. Welcome to the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, whose lawyer threatened to sue the ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: New Orleans Slaps History

It was balmy and relatively quiet on Sunday afternoon in New Orleans. The flowers of spring were in full flush on Canal Street and, as darkness began to cloak the city, no one was aware that a cadre of police snipers was quietly setting up in a hotel parking garage across from the Liberty Place monument. Shortly after 1 a.m. yesterday morning, a number of large trucks rumbled past ... (click for more)

Defense, Pitching Sparkle In Owls' 4-0 Win Vs. Mustangs

Strong defense meant more for Ooltewah than any other aspect of Monday’s key District 5-3A prep baseball game against Walker Valley at A.C. “Bud” Ball Field. ** Owls center fielder Jake Sullivan made an ESPN-worthy diving catch in left-center that probably saved two runs in the first inning. ** Pitcher Daniel Willie picked off a Mustangs runner at first base in the ... (click for more)

Lee Women, Men Second At Gulf South Conference Championship

The Lee women's golf team slipped from first to second after 36 holes of play at the Gulf South Conference Tournament on Monday from Callaway Gardens Golf Club. The 13th-ranked Lady Flames dipped to 313 after an opening round score of 303 for a 617 total. No. 16 West Georgia fired a 298 in round two (604 total) and will carry a 13-shot lead over the Lady Flames heading into ... (click for more)