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TMCNet:  EPB ready to begin fiber optic project: New television, Internet, phone service coming soon

[October 19, 2010]

EPB ready to begin fiber optic project: New television, Internet, phone service coming soon

Oct 15, 2010 (News-Democrat & Leader - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Beginning next week, Russellville citizens will begin seeing lots of white utility trucks around town.

The vehicles, from Atlantic Engineering, will be installing approximately about 100 miles of fiber optic cable for the Electric Plant Board.

The vehicles will all have signs identifying them as belonging to Atlantic Engineering (AEG) and will be under the direction of the Electric Plant Board. The vehicles will be working along the streets and roadways and in other areas where overhead electric lines already exist.

"We have requested AEG to not inconvenience the citizens any more than necessary while installing the fiber" said Larry Wilcutt, Superintendent of the Electric Plant board. He also said that the EPB wants the citizens to call the EPB if they have any concerns or issues with the contractor.

The EPB's goal is to eventually install fiber optic cable to every home and business in Russellville, is installing the cable to every home in the Russellville, city limits -- even those that are serviced by other electricity providers. There are also plans to include some locations outside of the city limits to extend service to the more populated areas adjacent to the city limits of Russellville. Details of the planned areas will be made available at a later time.

The purpose of the fiber optic cable is to allow the EPB to monitor its electric system, increase reliability and be in the position to utilize "Smart Grid" technology. In addition to monitoring, the EPB will also be able to read, connect and disconnect its electric meters remotely.

Wilcutt said "one of my goals for this project is to provide a means for our customers to become more aware of when and how they are using electricity and then make smart decisions accordingly." He also said he plans for the EPB to offer "pre-paid metering" to its customers and eliminate the need for deposits.

In addition to the benefits for the electric system and its customers, the EPB will utilize the fiber to deliver broadband services, including video, voice and data. The use of fiber optic cable virtually "future proofs" the EPB's system to be able to deliver these services with the greatest quality and reliably. Coaxial cable and twisted copper, while great for the one service they were designed to deliver, they have proven to be limiting factors in the delivery of all of these services together through the same cable. Fiber, using light, has proven to deliver the highest quality images, clearest voice and fastest data speeds.

The technology for video, voice and data has changed drastically over the last few years but unfortunately the citizens of Russellville have not been able to utilize all of the benefits due to the limits of the antiquated infrastructure in place today. As of today, there is nothing on the market that compares to fiber optic cable and its ability to deliver these new and higher technical services. Whether it's, digital or high-definition TV today or 3-D TV tomorrow it can be delivered over fiber. If you need 1MBs or 6 MBs speed today or 100 MBs or higher tomorrow, it can be delivered over fiber.

If it's just voice today or video phone tomorrow, it can be done over fiber optic cable.

Once the installation project is complete, the EPB will be able to offer Russellville a host of new options for cable television, high speed Internet and unlimited local and long distance phone service.

"When it is finished, we will offer the fastest Internet available in Russellville," said Ryan Coleman, from the Electric Plant Board. "There's not a whole lot of companies out there that deploy fiber optic cable -- most still are using copper to the homes." The pricing and speed packages are still being hammered out by the EPB, but Coleman said they are looking at a download speed of 10 megabytes (MB) as being average. By comparison, Suddenlink Communications -- Russellville's current cable company -- only offers a maximum download speed of about 1MB.

AT&T's high speed Internet offerings only goes up to 6MB for residential.

Coleman said the EPB will also be offering upload speeds of about 5MB.

"We have virtually unlimited bandwidth growth potential," he said.

The fiber optic cables will allow EPB to offer much more than just the fastest Internet in town, though.

It will also give the EPB an opportunity to bring Russellville's cable television choices into the 21st century.

Currently, if you live in Russellville and want to watch television in high definition, you must subscribe to a satellite service.

The Electric Plant Board will begin offering cable television with plenty of high definition channels in the coming months. In addition to high definition, the EPB's state-of-the-art television service will allow customers to take their TV with them by allowing them to watch on a laptop computer, iPad, iPhone, etc.

The fiber optic cable will also allow the EPB to support future television technologies, such as 3DTV and Super Hi-Vision.

The EPB service will also allow for local content to be shown on cable TV.

The fiber optic cable will additionally allow the EPB to provide home telephone service, while keeping existing home phone numbers.

All these new services will be based out of the new building being constructed on East 4th Street next to the existing EPB offices. The state of the art facility is being built to withstand an EF5 tornado and will have backup generators to keep everything running smoothly.

The installation of the fiber optic lines are scheduled to be completed around January. The EPB expects to be able to start marketing its telecom services by the second quarter of 2011.

The EPB has worked closely with the Tennessee Valley Authority, its regulating authority, to ensure the EPB remains in compliance with the power contract it has with TVA.

The EPB will create a division to account for the telecom operations separate from its electric operations. While certain equipment, employees and infrastructure will be utilized by both, the cost will remain seperate. In doing so, the electric rate payers will not be subsidizing the telecom division. Funding for the project was provided by two bond issues, one for the electric fiber portion and the other for the telecom services.

"The Board has been working on this project for over two years and we are extremely excited to finally start construction on this project. We want to provide the citizens of Russellville with a system that is second to none, one they will be proud of, one that will entice new investment in the community. Whether that new investment is in the form of capital, technology or people, we believe the City of Russellville and Logan County will benefit well into the future" Wilcutt said.

It is important to note that no taxes were used for the funding of this project and it will not affect electric rates at all.

Customers will be able to purchase television, Internet and telephone as a bundle for savings on each of the individual services.

Details such as pricing for each service and the bundled services -- as well as television programming -- is still in the planning stages and will be announced by the EPB at a later date.

To see more of the News-Democrat & Leader, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.newsdemocratleader.com/. Copyright (c) 2010, News-Democrat & Leader, Russellville, Ky. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit www.mctinfoservices.com, e-mail services@mctinfoservices.com, or call 866-280-5210 (outside the United States, call +1 312-222-4544).

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