BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.
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42 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2016 COMMUNITY BROADBAND Four Communities Take Steps Toward Better Broadband Cities pursue different paths to the same end: better connectivity for residents. By Masha Zager / Broadband Communities T ullahoma, with a population of about 19,000, has one of the older, established municipal fiber systems, already in its eighth year of delivering FTTH services. But the city isn't resting on its laurels; in 2012, it became the smallest U.S. gigabit city (since that time, even smaller cities have gone gigabit), and it continues to earn high marks for service quality, reliability and customer support. Tullahoma Utilities Board (TUB) general manager Brian Skelton explains that when he took the helm of the agency a decade ago, board members asked him to consider adding a telecom division to the existing water, wastewater and electricity divisions. It was actually the agency's second look at telecom; the idea of building a cable network had been raised – and rejected – in 2000. In 2006, Skelton hired Uptown Services to do a feasibility study, and Uptown recommended building an FTTH network. e project moved forward at a speed that most other cities would envy. e board endorsed the fiber plan in 2007, and because community response was enthusiastic, the city council quickly signed on. In September 2007, the city released a bond offering. By the end of the year, bonds were issued and crews had begun installing the outside plant. "Friendly" customers started testing the new LightTUBe network in July 2008, and the first paying customers signed on in September 2008. After ironing out a few bugs, the utility started collecting revenue in January 2009. Chattanooga, a much larger city about 75 miles from Tullahoma, was trying to build an FTTH network at about the same time and faced fierce opposition and lawsuits that delayed its project. Tullahoma had no such problems: "We were so small, we flew under the radar," Skelton says. However, Tennessee law precludes TUB from serving communities outside its electric utility footprint – which Skelton says is frustrating to people who live nearby and would love to have FTTH service. Attempts to overturn the state law, with the support of state Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, a former TUB board member, have been unsuccessful to date, and the FCC's 2015 preemption of the law was recently overturned in court. LIGHTTUBE SERVICES Of the roughly 9,000 premises now eligible to receive LightTUBe services, more than 3,500 are subscribers, including an estimated 50 percent of local businesses. Customers can subscribe to internet, telephone and video services. Residential internet offerings range from 30 Mbps/5 Mbps to 1 Gbps symmetrical, and Skelton says the video service is "super high quality, with no compression off the satellite." To differentiate its service even further, TUB created two local TV channels, which broadcast local news, high school sports, school plays and community events. "e addition of local TV Tullahoma, Tennessee: Civic Pride, Gigabit and Smart Grid