BrightRidge is a local public power authority serving Johnson City, TN and rural areas of Washington, Carter, Greene and Sullivan Counties. BrightRidge provides electric services to over 78,000 meters. As part of its grid modernization program, BrightRidge built a 160-mile fiber backbone to interconnect its substations, deploy AMI and connect field equipment.
As internet needs grew among its customers, BrightRidge saw an opportunity to serve both the rural portions of the counties where internet access was marginal, as well as urban customers within Johnson City, to promote choice for residents and businesses.
It was important for BrightRidge to serve both populations in a broadband deployment. “In those dense areas and around the industrial parks where we have access to our substations, we will roll out the fiber. But we will also be rolling out wireless into those rural communities at the same time” said Jeff Dykes, CEO of BrightRidge.
Rather than deploying its network all at once like some utilities have done, BrightRidge preferred a phased approach that spread out the construction, customer connections and investment needed to build the network. This would allow BrightRidge to keep new borrowings minimal while reinvesting system revenues generated in the early years back into the network to expand it over time.
BrightRidge retained Magellan Advisors to determine the best process to achieve these goals. Magellan and Brightridge first worked to develop an underlying feasibility study for deploying broadband using a phased approach.
Magellan understood BrightRidge’s strategic objectives and developed a fiber and wireless design that would enable a phased deployment over 8 years. Each phase consisted of an urban fiber to the home deployment within Johnson City between 4,000 - 8,000 homes, coupled with a comparable wireless build in the rural areas, where fiber was too costly to deploy. This framework ensured that BrightRidge could build equitably to its customer base, urban and rural.
Magellan developed a comprehensive financial and business plan showing that over the 8-year period, BrightRidge could fund its network without excessive debt load and begin to reinvest excess revenues into expansion in the later years of the build. The business plan, financial plan and implementation roadmap were presented to BrightRidge’s board, who voted to move forward with the deployment in 2018. “An eight-year phased approach is the right way to go. This allows the new broadband division to generate some of its own capital. It allows the Board to carefully monitor implementation, and it allows us to adapt to evolving technology,” said Jeff Dykes.
Today, BrightRidge has deployed phases 1 and 2 of its broadband services to nearly 11,000 customers. It is offering internet, voice and video services with internet packages that start at 200 meg for $49.99 a month, 1 gig for $79.99 a month and 10 gig for $299.99 a month. BrightRidge’s internet services were recently featured by PC Magazine’s report on “15 Affordable Small Towns in the US With Fast Internet for Remote Workers.”