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BrightRidge kicks off broadband in 2019

Robert Houk • Jul 25, 2018 at 12:00 AM

BrightRidge officials are getting down to the details of their $64 million broadband plan.

The utility will hold a public hearing on its new internet, phone and video services on Thursday, beginning at 6 p.m. in the auditorium of its offices at 2600 Boones Creek Road.

BrightRidge’s board of directors got a preview Tuesday of what potential customers will hear at that community meeting.

Stacy Evans, the utility’s chief broadband officer, went over the business plan for BrightRidge’s new services. Evans and his staff will be on hand Thursday to answer questions about the broadband plan.

“After being here seven weeks, I’m very impressed with the staff,” Evans told board members. “It comes with a great level of experience.”

Evans said that knowledge will be needed as the utility moves into the competitive world of broadband. 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 much of greater Johnson City to be the first area connected. Evans said Phase I identifies 4,000 potential customers between North Roan Street/Interstate 26 area to University Parkway. Fiber optics and wireless connections would also be made in portions of Piney Flats and Jonesborough during 2019.

Phase II would begin in 2020 and expand wireless connections to Piney Flats and Jonesborough, as well as add fiber connections to the Knob Creek Road and Med-Tech Park areas. BrightRidge said it expects to have 19,800 broadband customers by the end of that phase.

Evans said that number should grow to 32,000 by the end of Phase III in 2021. He said new technology will allow BrightRidge to offer services that are faster than its competitors.

For businesses wishing to relocate to the area, Evans said that means “we can shorten the distance from Northeast Tennessee to the rest of the world.”

By the time all eight phases are completed in 2026, Evans said BrightRidge will have 75 percent of its coverage area — more than 61,000 customers — connected to broadband. That includes 2,540 businesses and 33,428 homes connected to fiber optics, and 275 businesses and more than 25,000 houses serviced by wireless technology.

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

The plan will next go before Johnson City Commission for its approval on Aug. 16.

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