Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It's working in Virginia...& Tennessee

It has been a while since we've checked in with Bristol, Virginia's Fiber To The Home (FTTH) Network. Telephony Online provides another encouraging update.

Followers of Lafayette's saga will recall Bristol as the city that the "academic" astroturf organizations and Cox/BellSouth supporters tried to portray Bristol Virginia Utilities (BVU) as a failure in order to discourage Lafayette's citizens from considering building our own network. It was always a crock but the system has recently become such a roaring success that opponents of municipal networks have had to start simply ignoring it. But it's not about to go away. BVU's success has inspired its across-the-border sister, Bristol, Tennessee to do the same. The projects, located in economically struggling Appalachia, have brought much needed jobs to the community, saved their citizens money, and kept local dollars from draining out of the rural communities.

The story "Fiber beat still pulses at Bristol" is well-structured and I recommend reading the whole article. Here are some highlights that are sure to hearten muni fiber supporters:

On BVU's home town success:
BVU has fought major regulatory battles along the way, at one point suing the state of Virginia and helping to push through a new state law. The company has faced its own critics down, including local telco Embarq, which claimed BVU was cross-subsidizing its telecom services with its electric and water revenues...

“We had two very good success stories that happened with Northrop Grumman and CGI, which brought in 700 new jobs with average salaries of $50,000,” said Wes Rosenbalm, president and CEO of BVU. “The average salary here is $24,000 to $27,000. And we have a couple other deals we are looking at internally.”

On the consumer side, BVU has a 65% penetration rate for its triple-play services inside the city of Bristol...

On neighboring Bristol, Tennessee's following suit:

The Bristol, Tenn., City Council urged BTES to get into cable after it saw how BVU was selling cable service at lower rates than Charter Communications, the primary local cable operator, Browder said. After going through the process of becoming a CLEC, BTES added voice service.

“The local cable company, Charter, lowered prices in Bristol, Va., after BVU started competing with them, but they wouldn’t lower prices in Bristol, Tenn., so the city council sent us a petition,” Browder said....

“Right now, today we have almost 25% penetration, but we have areas where we have been out there a little longer that we have over 50% penetration,” he said. “We are quickly bringing up the distribution system. We have now passed 27,000 homes. The original plan was to pass 20,000 in four years. We are hooking people up as fast as we want to, based on the fact that we want to serve every customer really well. If we did some advertising, we could bring in a lot more customers in a hurry.”
On nifty-keeno services:
Both offer high-definition TV — Browder says the Tennessee side has more channels — and digital video recorders. BVU offers caller ID on the television via Integra 5 technology, and in February it announced on-demand video from Cisco Systems, to be available by July...

“A huge piece for us is what we can do with the electric system; we can read meters,” Browder said. “They do automatic power outage reporting, and it automatically reports to our dispatch. When we very first started, we had a lightning storm. Thirty-four customers were out; two were on fiber. We knew it right away. A lineman went and fixed it before we got the phone calls.”

“With this system, they can buy $50 of electricity, and when it goes off, it quits. It’s been a great service to this particular group of people that need that. Also we have 14,000 water heaters in one area that we cycle off during peak times to save electricity. We can move that to very off-peak time by monitoring them and leave them off much longer times. If temperature drops we can turn that one back on.”
The line the hacks in astroturf organizations have always promoted was that municipalities could never get an effective network built or run it well. Bristol should put a stake through the heart of that nonsense. Here's to hoping Lafayette will will help finish that line of "reasoning" entirely.

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