Internet service is continuing to gain new customers and even more are expected when school starts back up, said David Wade, CEO of EPB. In an effort to stay ahead of the curve, EPB is making upgrades to its fiber optic network that has now been in service since 2009. The fiber itself still has 30-40 years of life left and retains the ability to grow. The upgrades will be done on the electronics that the system uses. When it started, the work was projected to take 6-7 years to complete at a cost of $60 million.
Ryan Keel, vice president of Technical Operations, told the board at a meeting Friday morning that the network upgrades are to accommodate growth.
There are three parts to the system upgrades - the core network, distribution and access. The work began with upgrades to the core phase. That has now been completed.
The second step, work on the distribution phase, involves improvements to electronics. Customers are being switched to the new core network which takes place overnight. Customers receive a message when maintenance will be taking place. Mr. Keel said 25 percent of customers have now been moved to the new network.
The last phase will be replacing the equipment that is attached outside the house and is the one that will take the longest and require the most manpower, said Mr. Keel, because it requires a physical trip. This will be done in the Chattanooga area over the next 5-6 years. As of now, about $10 million has been spent of the $60 million total projected cost, which he said is on track.
EPB currently offers 1Gig internet. When the new system is finished, there will be the ability to offer 10 Gig internet. This will allow new products which Mr. Keel said would be higher speeds at lower costs as well as some uses that have not even been thought of yet. Chairman of the EPB Board Vicky Gregg commented that people will not even know what to do with 10 Gig internet. When 1 Gig was introduced, people did not know what to do with that but now they do, said Mr. Keel. It will also create a smart home product that makes wireless connections more robust.
Currently the basic internet speed is 300 Mbps and 33 percent of customers have been moved into the 1 Gig service. More people are continuing to buy the faster service for an increased cost of $10 per month, said Mr. Wade.
He also said EPB will be working with customers to help lower video costs. He said that now packages have so many stations that the customer does not want and all of those stations are increasing their prices. He said customers could pay less by choosing a streaming service that includes most of what they want. EPB is ready to help them choose which streaming service that best fits their needs.