Last month Knoxville City Council gave Knoxville Utilities Board final approval to build a fifth utility, adding broadband internet to their portfolio of electricity, water, sewage and gas.
On Thursday night, Knox News reporter Vincent Gabrielle caught up with Ryan Wilusz, Knox News urban life writer, to talk about what people can expect as KUB expands their new service.
The conversation, which can be viewed on the Knox News Instagram (@knoxvillephoto) was part of KnoxTalks, a live chat series with Knox News reporters on subjects about which readers have burning questions.
Here’s what Gabrielle and Wilusz talked about.
When will people be able to get KUB broadband?
That depends on a couple things – build plans and your location. KUB hasn’t finalized any build plans so when you, specifically, will get access to the service is anyone’s guess.
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KUB expects to build out the whole fiber network over the next seven years. The first customers should be hooked up next summer, and KUB will be adding customers as they expand into new neighborhoods.
What area will KUB’s broadband service cover?
The broadband network is being built in the same area as KUB’s electricity service area. If you get an electricity bill from KUB, you will eventually have access to the service. If you don’t, you will not be able to get the service. That’s because of a Tennessee state law that prevents public utilities from expanding beyond their electrical footprint.
You’ll know when they’re coming to your neighborhood because KUB will be publishing their plans and advertising as they go.
What kind of internet service is this?
KUB is building a fiber optic broadband network. Unlike other internet service like DSL or cable-based internet, fiber optic networks don’t use copper lines and are capable of transmitting a large amount of data very quickly.
On the consumer side, fiber internet is very fast internet. KUB is going to offer 1 gigabit per second internet service. That’s about 400 times faster than the legal standard for broadband internet as defined by the Federal Communications Commission.
The price of this service will be $65 a month for residential customers. Residential customers who work from home will not be charged business rates. It is not yet clear whether a business based out of a home office, or a home server, would be charged a business or residential rate. That’s something customers will have to discuss with KUB.
KUB is promising symmetrical service, which means both upload and download speeds will be one gigabit per second. Standard internet plans have slower upload speeds than download speeds. That’s something you notice if multiple people in the house are on a video call. Your upload speeds limit how well you can broadcast from your house.
Television and telephone packages will also be available through KUB.
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I like my existing internet. What do I get?
When a new competitor enters the market it tends to drive prices downward and improves customer service. If you like your current provider, it gives you some leverage to negotiate better prices with them.
KUB also plans on using their fiber network to make their electrical grid into a “smart grid” that lets them prevent power outages. Chattanooga’s electrical utility and broadband provider cut their electricity outages substantially using their smart grid.
Where is the money coming from?
KUB is funding the initial build with 3% annual rate increases over the next three years. That’s an increase on the charge for electricity use, not the monthly service fee. On average, in three years, monthly bills will increase by about $10.
Will this impact KUB gas customers?
If you get gas from KUB but not electricity, this will have no impact on your gas rates and you will not have access to the broadband service KUB is offering. You might get better internet prices from your provider since you’d be in a more competitive market, but again, that’s something you would need to negotiate with your provider.
Will this impact Loudon County Utility Board electricity customers?
No, this will not impact LCUB electricity customers. LCUB has a “fiber ring” that they are exploring leasing to private internet service companies, but that’s not something that KUB’s plan has any impact on.
Will 10 gig service be offered? What about special services?
It’s possible that KUB could offer 10 gigabit service in the future, but in their business plan they are starting with 1 gig service and special technical support service for business customers.
KUB is also offering “static IP service” for internet customers, which is good for things like hosting a website, a server or for intense online gaming. Whether these things are charged at residential or commercial rates is between the customer and KUB.