Questions answered on BrightRidge's broadband plan

Robert Houk • Jul 27, 2018 at 11:07 AM

Brenda Carney of Johnson City had two questions on her mind at Thursday’s public hearing on BrightRidge’s new broadband service.

“When is it coming, and how much will it cost?”

Carney and her son, Nicholas, were among the 72 people who gathered at BrightRidge’s offices in Boones Creek to hear details of the public utility’s new internet, video and phone offerings.

“I understand we are in Phase III of the fiber plan, Carney said after checking one of the many service maps at the community meeting. “We wanted to be one of the first connected.”

She said her 26-year-old son had more technical questions to ask BrightRidge officials, who met with potential customers at tables in the utility’s auditorium.

“I wanted to know more about the design of the network,” Nicholas Carney said.

BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes told the audience it was an “exciting time” for the utility. He said BrightRidge planned to roll out its broadband services in eight yearly phases. He said the $64 million hybrid fiber optic and fixed wireless broadband plan would benefit both rural and more populated communities, as well as help students and schools in BrightRidge’s service area.

Stacy Evans, BrightRidge’s chief broadband officer, said downtown Johnson City will be the first area connected. Evans said Phase I identifies 4,000 potential customers between North Roan Street/Interstate 26 area to University Parkway. Fiber optics and wireless connections would also be made in portions of Piney Flats and Jonesborough during 2019.

Phase II would begin in 2020 and expand wireless connections to Piney Flats and Jonesborough, as well as add fiber connections to Knob Creek Road and Med-Tech Park. BrightRidge said it expects to have 19,800 broadband customers by the end of that phase.

By the time all eight phases are completed in 2026, Evans said BrightRidge is expected to have more than 61,000 customers connected to broadband. That includes 2,540 businesses and 33,428 homes connected to fiber optics, and 275 businesses and more than 25,000 houses serviced by wireless technology.

Shirley Friday said Thursday she hopes that BrightRidge officials are correct when they say some phases could move quicker than expected. Friday, who lives on Rockingham Road in Johnson City, said she is currently without internet service. She lives in a neighborhood slated for Phase 6 connection.

“I’m a widow living on a fixed income, but I’m very interested in signing up for broadband,” she said.

Friday said the price of the service, which BrightRidge officials said would be competitive and released soon, will help her make a final decision.

Johnson City resident David “Bear” Mann said pricing is also an issue with him.

“Are they going to play the same ‘gotcha’ game the cable company plays,” he asked. “Are they going to raise their prices after six months?”

Mann also said he wanted an a la carte menu of broadband services.

“All I’m interested in is internet and telephone,” he said.

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