LCUB customers soon to get broadband internet

Wendy SmithFarragut, The Farragut Insider

If you’re an LCUB electric or business customer, you’ll have the opportunity to have broadband internet within three years, thanks to the utility company’s plans to modernize its electric grid.

LCUB already has 84 miles of fiber optic cable installed to connect electric substations, and it plans to install another 1,600 miles of cable, approximately 45 miles per month, starting in May. The goal is to provide broadband internet to underserved areas first, says Jeremy Walden, director of electrical engineering and operations at LCUB.

Jeremy Walden

“We’re looking at the build-out schedule now. Some areas are completely unserved, so we’ll see if we can hit those people first.”

He hopes to offer broadband service to customers as early as August. Speed and reliability are two advantages of broadband. The base internet package for residential customers will have a speed of one gigabit per second symmetrical, meaning that the speed is the same for uploads and downloads. The ability to upload, or send, large files has become increasingly necessary as more people work from home, Walden says. The utility company plans to offer 2.5 and 10 gig symmetrical service as well.

LCUB is taking guidance on providing broadband service from Chattanooga. EPB (Electric Power Board of Chattanooga) began offering one gig symmetrical broadband internet in 2010, which was the fastest residential internet speed in the country at the time. EPB now has 70 percent of the market share for internet service in Chattanooga, Walden says.

A recent study showed that Chattanooga’s community-wide fiber optic network provided economic and social benefits worth over $2.69 billion in its first decade. Benefits have included job creation and narrowing the connectivity divide for students.

“We’ll mimic what they’ve done. They’ve been very successful.”

Installation of the new cable should be minimally intrusive. It will follow the existing electrical lines, which are on poles and underground. The majority of new subdivisions in the service area have underground lines, Walden says.

LCUB will now have five divisions: water, gas, sewer, electric and broadband. The fiber optic cable, which will primarily be utilized by the electric division, will also be used by the broadband division. The total cost for installation is expected to be $132-135 million. Additional hardware and devices for providing broadband services will cost $22 million, which will come in the form of an interdivisional loan from the electric division. The loan will be paid back in eight years, Walden says, with no rate increase for electric customers.

The base rate for one-gigabit symmetrical residential service is expected to be approximately $64.99 a month.

“That’s no contracts, no data caps and no special offers,” Walden says.

While LCUB plans to offer phone service as an add-on to internet service, there are no plans to offer subscription video. But the utility company plans to provide online recommendations and instructions on how to set up streaming services like YouTube TV and Netflix for customers who need it.

Having the option for affordable broadband internet service will be a game-changer for LCUB customers. (KUB is also planning to offer broadband internet, although its network isn’t expected to be completed until 2029.) Hi-speed internet isn’t a luxury anymore – it’s necessary for doing business, educating kids and keeping us connected to our community. We look forward to adding this to the list of Farragut’s assets.

Town of Farragut marketing and public relations coordinator Wendy Smith is your reliable Farragut insider.

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