Photo above: Ira Stone of MiniFibers, (right) discusses broadband with Eric Ogle of Magellan Advisors, working on behalf of the Johnson City Power Board. Photos courtesy JCPB
By Scott Robertson
The Johnson City Power Board (soon to be changing its name to the Johnson City Energy Authority Board) is in the process of conducting an intensive survey of its business and residential users in order to ascertain their broadband needs. Magellan Advisors is doing the legwork for the board, speaking with business clients directly and promoting an online survey for residential customers.
“Normally this study would take Magellan six months,” says Jeff Dykes, JCPB CEO. “We requested they turn it around in three. They have brought in additional folks to do meetings and visit with our customers.”
The board has taken its time in the past, considering a joint venture with BVU three years ago before deciding against it, then putting together its own business plan for a hybrid system to offer broadband connectivity using the 167 miles of high-count fiber already in place along with a wireless element.
But the board wanted to be completely sure it was making the most prudent decision possible, so it put its plans on hold for a few more months in order to let Magellan, which has conducted similar studies around the world, including the Tennessee Valley, study the situation and report back, Dykes says.
“So once Magellan completes the feasibility study, and that should be prior to our July board meeting, they will do a presentation for the board,” Dykes says. “They will say, ‘here are some viable options and here are some costs.’ They will also show the financial models so we can see if we would get a viable return – is it a viable model that doesn’t put the utility at risk and doesn’t put the customers at risk. That will be key for us.”
“We’ve been looking at a hybrid system of wireless and fiber,” Dykes reiterates. “They may be able to expand on that and show us what it would look like on a larger scale. They’ll help us with timelines. That way when our board makes a decision, they will be able to say, ‘We are making the best decision based on all the information available.’ For us, it’s bringing in the experts in the field. That allows us to say, ‘We have looked at every option possible.’”
Dykes says its too early to put a timeline on service rollouts. Once Magellan makes its presentation, the board will choose an option with which to move forward. The timeline from there on depends at least in part on which option the board chooses.