BrightRidge celebrated a milestone in January when it exceeded 10,000 subscribers to its nation-leading next generation broadband service.
The public utility launched its broadband division four years ago.
Currently, BrightRidge Broadband has infrastructure in place to serve nearly 30,000 locations in Washington County and Johnson City. A $2.3 million project funded by the city of Johnson City is nearly complete in the eastern part of the city and work is underway along the Bristol Highway corridor to Piney Flats.
When completed later this year, the Bristol Highway project will bring access to about 3,320 locations that currently do not have BrightRidge Broadband available.
“We could not be more pleased with the community response to BrightRidge Broadband,” BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes said in a news release. “The biggest complaint we receive is that we are not rolling out fast enough.
“We have cut two years off our originally planned rollout thanks to smart work internally as well as grants from Tennessee and Johnson City, but it does take a good bit of time with a startup to secure funding and build out the necessary infrastructure.”
Meanwhile, work continues in the Fall Branch area, building off an earlier pandemic-related grant, which will open service to 387 locations in the next two months. And in mid-2024, BrightRidge will begin construction in Colonial Heights, which was not in the original build plan.
At the same time, BrightRidge Broadband will be reapplying later this year for state grant funding to continue expanding in rural Washington County beyond the 8,200 locations with service available.
“We were very disappointed that we did not receive the grant from Tennessee in 2022, particularly with the Washington County Commission willing to fully support the effort with grant matching funds,” BrightRidge Chief Broadband Officer Stacy Evans said. “Sparsely populated areas cost up to eight times what it costs to serve a more densely populated area. This makes it difficult to build out rural areas without grant or local governmental support.”
BrightRidge officials say its broadband service is unique in the country, with only a handful of other communities having access to a full 10 GB of internet connectivity, and virtually none offering fully symmetrical services, which provides the same headline bandwidth on both uploads and downloads.
At the same time, BrightRidge has increased the speed of its lowest cost offerings from 200 MB to 300 MB and from 500 MB to 600 MB (symmetrical) at no cost to customers.
“When we say nation-leading next generation broadband, we mean it,” Evans said. “We’re working with our customers daily to save them money on their telecommunications services and cutting the cord on traditional high-cost cable video by helping customers make the move to streaming video.”
BrightRidge is a publicly owned electric utility serving 81,747 customers in Washington, Sullivan, Carter and Greene counties. It is the 10th largest local power company in the Tennessee Valley Authority service area.
In December, Blackburn, Childers & Steagall issued BrightRidge a clean opinion for its budget audit in the 2022 fiscal year, marking 32 years that the public utility has received such a grade from auditors.
BrightRidge is returning $2.6 million to customers in FY 2023, passing along the full TVA Pandemic Recovery Credit. By the end of FY 2023, BrightRidge will have returned $6.24 million to customers since 2021.
“As a public non-profit company, we have done the maximum to help our customers through the difficulties of the pandemic and the more recent period of high inflation,” Dykes said. “And we continually evaluate ways to become more efficient and effective, offering the best possible services at the lowest possible cost.”
BrightRidge and TVA have also contributed to support the most vulnerable in society by providing more than $371,000 to the Heissee Johnson Hand Up Fund since 2020 and $1 million to assist low-income homeowners with heat pump and energy efficiency upgrades for their homes.
BrightRidge also helps keep taxes lower, as the company is by far the largest taxpayer in Johnson City and Washington County, paying out more than $5.8 million in FY 2022 to local governments in lieu of taxes.
Also, BrightRidge continued to reinvest in its electric distribution system in 2022, spending $2 million to refurbish the West distribution substation and $3 million to install 73 automated switches connected by a fiber optic network to restore power more quickly during an outage.