Public hearing set on BrightRidge broadband plan

Robert Houk • Jul 19, 2018 at 12:00 AM

BrightRidge is moving forward on plans to get into the cable, phone and high-speed internet business. Its board of directors voted Wednesday to ratify a business model for those services and to hold a public hearing on July 26.

That community meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in BrightRidge’s offices at 2600 Boones Creek Road.

“I’m excited about it from our customers’ standpoint,” BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes said before the vote. “The community has been asking about this for quite a while.”

Dykes said the utility is pursuing a ”wise and conservative” plan for rolling out broadband, cable and voice services to its customers. He said that plan also promises a “high-speed option for rural areas.”

BrightRidge directors unanimously approved a resolution on Wednesday confirming they had reviewed the state comptroller’s report on the utility’s business plan for cable and internet and believe it’s in the best interest of their customers to proceed with the next stage of the estimated $64 million  project. The Tennessee Valley Authority has also reviewed the utility’s broadband plan.

Now it’s up to Johnson City officials to give their OK. After the public hearing, Dykes said BrightRidge will ask the City Commission to give its blessing to the new services on Aug. 16.

Board member Jenny Brock, who also serves as a city commissioner, said approving BrightRidge’s broadband plan was “one of my best votes.” Fellow director Bob Cantler said getting into the cable and internet business would “enhance the community from an economic standpoint.”

BrightRidge’s board voted in January to adopt a business plan to bring public broadband to much of its service area, which includes Piney Flats and Colonial Heights in Sullivan County, and parts of western Carter County. The plan for the rollout of the broadband service is divided into eight phases that would give the utility the flexibility to stop at any phase it deems unprofitable and still maintain a viable business plan.

Each of the phases is expected to take a year to complete, with Johnson City and Washington County to be among the first areas connected.

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