TN: Telecoms compete EPB set to challenge Comcast for local customers

Posted on February 26, 2008 - 8:24am.

from: Times Free Press

Telecoms compete EPB set to challenge Comcast for local customers

By: Jason Reynolds
TimesFreePress Audio

In the past, Comcast only offered cable programming and EPB just sold electricity.

Now, Comcast offers telephone and Internet service as well, and EPB is poised to offer the complete package of video, telephone and Internet service.

“We’ll have a full range of products available at launch,” said Katie Espeseth, vice president of EPB’s fiber-to-the-home division.

EPB’s board is expected to approve a final bond plan at 4 p.m. today to finance its electric system with fiber-optic lines and serve as the backbone for the fiber-to-the-home telecom service.

Comcast has been offering cable service for years and has the experience to offer good service, general manager Valerie Gillespie said. The company’s telephone service, which came to Chattanooga last summer, has seen double-digit growth in demand, she said.

“We’ve got thousands of existing customers who love our service,” she said. “We’re constantly upgrading and enhancing those features. This isn’t new for us.”

In the meantime, AT&T is trying to reach a compromise with the Tennessee General Assembly to allow statewide cable franchising. The cable television industry and city and county government officials have been fighting AT&T’s efforts. AT&T offers DSL Internet service and 140 channels via satellite service.

EPB will offer “second generation” technology that is 10 times the speed of existing Internet service, Ms. Espeseth said, because it uses fiber-optics and electrical control equipment which can be kept current as required with software updates.

Comcast recently became the nation’s fourth-largest residential phone provider, Ms. Gillespie said, and offers a superior VOIP, or voice-over-Internet protocol — technology. VOIP calls are sent over Comcast’s private digital network, which the company says makes the call more secure than sending it over the public Internet network.

Also, the signal quality is better than traditional VOIP because the company’s network doesn’t mix data traffic with Internet traffic, according to Comcast.

Comcast Digital Voice phone service includes caller ID, which is viewable from a television or personal computer, according to a company statement. The service also has the SmartZone Communications Center, which allows customers to listen to calls online or forward them like e-mail, and Enhanced Cordless Telephone, which allows home phone users to check e-mail and voice-mail.

Telecom packages

Comcast offer various options for telephone, cable and Internet services and EPB is planning to provide a full range as well.


* Phone: Unlimited local and long-distance, using home phones and voice-over-Internet protocol, or VOIP, from a computer

* Cable: 66 basic channels; 24 high-definition (HD) channels in different packages (local channels in HD are available at no extra charge if you rent an HD box, which is $13.95 per month); more HD channels are coming in the next several months.

* Internet: Basic 6 megabytes per second downloading speed to 384 kilobytes per second uploading; Performance Plus is 8 megabytes downloading speed and 768 kilobytes per second uploading; Power Boost allows you to double the downloading speed, available on demand for no extra charge.


* Phone: Local and long-distance; VOIP

* Cable: About 200 channels; service would be through fiber-optic lines. The utility is negotiating with content providers on how channels will be grouped together.

* Internet: Second-generation broadband with speed of 100 megabytes per second, both for uploading and downloading

Source: Companies