October 15, 2015, Clarksville, TN
Clarksville made the leap into the future eight years ago, when CDE Lightband, the municipal power provider to the state’s fifth largest city, began the costly investment of installing a fiber optic network. While larger cities still wait for their fiber optic networks to arrive, Clarksville has earned a designation that eludes most major U.S. metros.
CDE Lightband’s infrastructure now includes 1,200 miles of fiber and connects more than 64,000 homes and business with fiber to the building. Thanks to this technology, electric meters are managed remotely, which saves the company more than $1 million annually. In fact, the network’s installation — seen initially by some as a gamble — has become a financial boon. It saves another $3.5 million annually due to faster electric restoration and safer and more reliable power delivery. Electric outages are being restored more rapidly and, due to the connectivity provided by the fiber network, power restoration times for larger outages — those involving 1,000 or more customers — are now typically reduced by as much as 50 percent.
But having a fiber optic network means more than offering enhanced electric service. CDE Lightband has connected almost every business and residence within the city limits into the Lightband “Fiber Fast” hub through which premium fiber broadband Internet, digital television and phone services are also offered. CDE Lightband also has a jewel in the fiber-optic crown — its ability to offer one-gigabit speeds, which deliver 1,000 megabits (mbps) of information per second. Compared to the national average Internet speed, gigabit service is up to 100 times faster.
Gigabit fiber Internet service makes Clarksville one of a handful of surprisingly smaller U.S. cities that have created networks on par with the international Internet speed leaders of Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris and Zürich.
Because of CDE Lightband’s speed edge, Google and Netflix have chosen Clarksville as a location for cache servers that allow their content to be delivered faster and more reliably for customers using their services. And CDE Lightband’s overall Internet service consistently ranks in the top 20 of the Netflix ISP Speed Index for the U.S., a list of streaming speed rankings among Internet service providers.
CDE Lightband’s General Manager Brian Taylor states: “Fiber Fast Internet is the electricity of the 21st century. People who experience Internet at more powerful speeds come to view it as a basic utility. Once they understand how much their home Internet experience is improved with speed and power, they don’t want to go back.”
Growth of CDE Lightband’s broadband Internet division has been steady; it currently has more than 18,000 customers. The commercial customer sector has grown by more than 27 percent in the past year, with customers subscribing to gigabit Internet access, as well as to the high-tech business phone services provided through PRI and SIP trunk technology. CDE Lightband also ventured into the residential and hospitality business this year, providing digital television services to the dormitories at Austin Peay State University, as well as to several local hotels and long-term care facilities.
As a result of this growth, CDE Lightband finished the fiscal year, in June 2015, on a high note. In addition to having net income, it provided all of the required payments to the electric division, the loans from the electric division, franchise payments to the city, as well as tax payments.
The broadband division has provided more than $5.5 million annually to the electric division in shared costs and lease payments. These funds also allow the electric division to improve, maintain and develop the electric plant without having to raise rates or gain access to funds via a bond issuance. The savings are passed on to consumers in the form of some of the lowest energy rates in the area.
The impact of the fiber network provides for other benefits within the city as well. Payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) are made to compensate local governments for some or all of the tax revenue that it loses because of the nature of the ownership or use of properties owned by CDE Lightband. CDE Lightband, since the inception of the fiber network, has paid to the City of Clarksville over $37 million in PILOT compensation and continues to make payments amounting to more than $5 million annually.
Businesses and consumers also recognize the changes due to the presence of a fiber network. An increasing number of Clarksville homebuilders are installing fiber-friendly wiring into newly-built construction, which makes for turnkey connections when new homeowners or business tenants move in. And according to a recent national survey by the Fiber to the Home Council, fiber connections make for a windfall when homeowners move out. The survey reports that homes within communities that provide fiber, and have access to Internet speeds up to one gigabit, have an increased value of the 3.1 percent, or an average of more than $5,000 per home.
”Our fiber project has proven to be an investment that benefits the electric system, the customers and the community. It has allowed us to enhance our distribution system and improve our system reliability; provide customer choice in video, Internet and telephone services and offer another tool in economic development. Every year access to high speed Internet becomes more critical in the recruitment of new business. We are proud to be an integral part of the growth and development of our community,” stated Mr. Taylor.
CDE Lightband offers electric, television, Internet and phone service to customers in the city limits of Clarksville. CDE Lightband is the municipal power provider and serves over 64,000 metered homes and businesses with electric service and over 18,000 customers with broadband services.
CDE Lightband, Fiber To The Home Manager, John Perry, analyzing fiber connections in a fiber hubsite within the system.