Fiber-to-the-premises broadband internet service has existed in Northeast Tennessee for 10 years. It could be, just now, coming to downtown Erwin.
Lee Brown, the general manager at Erwin Utilities, announced a plan to the Erwin Board of Mayor and Alderman Monday to bring high speed to Erwin using fiber. "Just recently it was not feasible to do so, but we have since developed a plan where we feel like we can provide high speed services to our customers," he says.
The company would build a fiber-optic network to serve 1,200 people who live and run a business in town. Phone service and high-speed internet at speeds rivaling larger cities.
John Williams, a fiber-optic engineer at Erwin Utilities, says, "The devices that we're installing will actually be capable of 1Gbs of speed, which is the fastest available in the U.S."
For now, during the pilot project, there will only be one speed offered, 100 Mbs, which is the fastest in the area.
There's already plenty of construction going on in downtown Erwin, and city officials say broadband is just another part of the plan to boost the economy.
We learned that customers would have access to electric, phone and internet all on one utility bill.
Patricia Oldham, director of Unicoi County's Economic Development Board, says high speeds will create business efficiency. "We can attract people from all over the world who can work in a loft upstairs in a downtown area or we can have a manufacturer who can link right into a company that may be all the way across the world."
Rebecca Moreland owns Buttercup Bakery in downtown Erwin. She says her business would grow with the service. "It would be nice to have a credit card machine to be able to do everything here. To be able to do faxes, that's one thing I can't do because I don't have a land line."
The estimated cost is $925,000. Brown told us he's confident the project will be approved and that service should be available around Nov. 1.
The Erwin Utilities Board of Directors approved the plan, but the Tennessee Comptroller must review the proposal. Then, a public hearing will be held before the BMA can give the final approval. That process should take approximately 90 days.