EPB, a municipally-owned electric company in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is now offering low-income residents of the city really high-speed internet at really low prices. The eligibility rules are simple: You’re eligible if you have a student in your house who qualifies for free or reduced-fee lunches.
Note one important thing about that eligibility rule: The students are not required to actually participate in the school lunch program. They just need to be eligible for the program.
What does it mean when we say the super fast internet service is super cheap? Well, EPB is offering 100 megabit-per-second internet service for just $26.99 per month. For comparison purposes, that’s less than half the price of EPB’s regular internet service.
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Burke boasts about the benefits of the service to low-income locals.
“We must make sure that as many Chattanoogans as possible have access to our game-changing infrastructure — our high-speed broadband network,” Berke stated. “We can’t leave behind Chattanoogans who simply want to worship together, learn together or celebrate together and simply need an Internet hookup to help them do so.”
If you’re anything like us, you probably wonder exactly what EPB is. EPB answered our question:
“A non-profit agency of the City of Chattanooga, EPB was established in 1935 for the sole purpose of providing electric power to the people of the greater Chattanooga area. Today, we are still one of the largest publicly-owned providers of electric power in the country. We serve more than 169,000 residents in a 600 square-mile area that includes greater Chattanooga, as well as parts of surrounding counties (small parts of Bledsoe, Bradley, Marion, Rhea and Sequatchie) and areas of North Georgia (portions of Catoosa, Dade and Walker).” – source: epb.net
Back in the 1930s, the initials EPB originally stood for Electric Power Board, but the city-owned utility now offers many more services, including one of the fastest fiber optic grids in the world.
EPB Chairman Joe Ferguson said the city-owned utility agreed to offer the discounted Internet service to low-income households “because it’s simply the right thing to do.”
What’s the rationale behind the $26.99 price? Why not offer the service for free? Well, according to TimesFreePress.com, “Under state regulations, EPB cannot give away the service since the utility is barred from operating at a loss or cross-subsidizing its services. The $26.99 monthly fee proposed for households with students getting free or reduced-fee lunches is based upon an EPB analysis of the cost to provide such service.”
EPB says there are about 21,000 students who get free or reduced-rate lunches, plus an unknown number of qualify for the program but do not yet participate, so they’re taking a bit of a wait-and-see attitude to the program.
Interestingly, this is not the cheapest internet program aimed at low-income Chattanoogans. Comcast, the cable TV and internet giant, also offers its low-cost Internet Essentials program in the area for just $10 per month. However, the speed offered by Internet Essentials is remarkably slow compared to EPB’s program — 20 times slower.
Berke sounded like a chest-pounding politician getting ready for a re-election campaign when he said EPB’s super-fast internet service “is the envy of every mayor I meet.”
“Chattanooga has the fastest, cheapest, most pervasive Internet in the Western Hemisphere — 600 square miles of fiber-optic cable hooked up to every home and business in our entire area,” he said.
This is very good news for low-income Chattanooga residents. Of course, some of them cannot afford even Comcast’s lower-priced, lower speed Internet Essentials program. But for those who require fast uploads and downloads at still affordable prices, EPB’s offering may be ideal.
If you are interested, go to epb.net.
h/t: Time Free Press