Muni fiber networks bounce back
Despite some high-profile failures, the deep-seated need for broadband keeps municipalities on the fiber-to-the-home-track.
“It's really a win-win,” said Kate Espeseth, vice president of EPB's communications system. “Not only do we enhance the electric services, there has also been a tremendous amount of support for choices for advanced communications as well. The way it is set up financially, the communications division will pay something similar to a lease fee to the electric division for use of the network. We will pay our fair share; there is no subsidy.”
The smart grid will allow consumers to remotely monitor their usage and will enable EPB to remotely read meters as well. “It gives customers the ability to see their electric bill real-time or usage real-time,” Espeseth said. “And we can provide energy management applications to enable them to reduce consumption during the times during the day when power is more expensive.”
Billy Ray, CEO of the Glasgow Electric Plant Board of Glasgow, Ky., which built the nation's first municipally owned broadband network, is now publicly arguing that instead of spending $18 billion to build nuclear power generators to meet future electric demand, the TVA should build FTTH networks to 9 million homes at $2000 each and use those connections to manage in-home electrical use in a way that would reduce demand and render new nuclear plants unnecessary.
In Lafayette, the LUS network is under construction and expects to turn up its first customer in January 2009, Huvall said. “Our plans are still to serve the entire city of Lafayette, putting fiber along every street and alley,” he said. “After that, the only thing left to be done is when the subscriber will contact us and we will run the line to them.”
Both LUS and EPB plan to offer their own triple-play services, although the Chattanooga utility isn't opposed to wholesaling its network as well if a service provider comes along to compete, Espeseth said.
Bristol Virginia Utilities began offering triple-play services on its OptiNet network in 2003, after considerable challenges from anti-muni broadband forces that, among other things, forced a state law requiring open access for those networks. But while OptiNet has offered open access from the outset, it has had very few takers. “Most of what we wholesale is backbone network,” said Wes Rosenbalm, president and CEO of BVU. “It's not down to the [optical network terminal] on the side of the home. We tried to find companies to [offer retail services] early on and couldn't.”
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