BrightRidge: Western Carter County part of broadband project

Published 4:34 pm Friday, August 24, 2018

Residents in the county that have BrightRidge as their public power provider could soon be in line for another option to the internet marketplace.

It all falls in line with the company’s hectic summer schedule. In July, the company has put the wheels in motion on an eight-year, $64 million investment to bring competition to the marketplace for regional broadband internet.

BrightRidge is the 10th largest public power provider within the Tennessee Valley Authority system and services over 78,000 customers in Carter, Greene, Sullivan and Washington counties.

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While dealing primarily in power, the company was able to use the years worth of studies into business models and technology to vote unanimously with the eight-year project that will offer up to 10 Gb symmetrical service (download and upload) to commercial and residential services.

“Our electric customers will see perhaps the largest benefit of our entry into the broadband marketplace,” BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes said in a statement issued to the Elizabethton Star. “Broadband will significantly reduce electric rate pressure as new revenue is generated by interest payments, facilities leasing, and shared personnel costs paid by the broadband division to the electric division. By 2030, the broadband division is projected to generate $41 million in payments not including loan principal to the electric division.”

Dykes added, “High-speed Internet is the water, sewer and road infrastructure of the 21st century. High quality broadband is essential to ensure the economic competitiveness of the communities we serve.”

If plans go accordingly, BrightRidge anticipates high-speed fixed wireless, based on cellular technology, will be offered in rural areas with speeds matching or exceeding those currently offered in the marketplace.

The plan includes building on 167 miles of existing high-capacity fiber, distribution fiber that will be extended into denser areas in Johnson City, Piney Flats, downtown Jonesborough and nine Washington County industrial parks. BrightRidge staff adds that high-speed wireless broadband will be offered in more rural areas, including the portion of western Carter County within the BrightRidge service area.

“High-speed Internet is the water, sewer and road infrastructure of the 21st century,” Dykes said. “High quality broadband is essential to ensure the economic competitiveness of the communities we serve.”

In addition to economic competitiveness, the community expects broadband to generate more than $1 million in new taxes for the communities BrightRidge serves.

In August, the company followed up the broadband news by announcing that 500 kilowatts of solar project capacity will be offered exclusively to BrightRidge customers on a lease basis by installing solar panels directly on a business, school or residential property.

BrightRidge officials added that Silicon Ranch is investing private capital to build the 5 MW solar farm located in Telford, near Jonesborough.

According to officials, the project is anticipated to generate about 8 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, with zero carbon emissions and zero water consumption.

And BrightRidge is keeping the busy streak going alongside Elizabethton Electric. Both power companies are going through studies in regards to a potential consolidation agreement. Plans are still preliminary on the idea and both companies are expected to meet with Elizabethton City Council members in the coming months to go over findings compiled by Mid-South Engineering.