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Chattanooga, Tenn.'s Muni Broadband Rated Best in the U.S. for Internet Service

According to a Consumer Reports survey, the EPB network owned by the city ranks higher in customer satisfaction than its private-sector competitors.

by / June 17, 2016

(TNS) — EPB ranked as the best utility in America for consumer satisfaction with its TV and internet service, according to surveys done by more than 172,000 subscribers of Consumer Reports magazine reporting on their experience with home internet, pay TV and telephone service.

The city-owned electric utility, which expanded into telecommunications a decade ago, scored a 92 from Consumer Reports' readers for its internet service. EPB boasted a "better" ranking — the highest available — for value, reliability and speed.

By comparison, Charter/Spectrum fiber scored 65, AT&T U-verse fiber scored 63 and Comcast/Xfinity cable scored a 54.

In TV service, EPB had a score of 89, compared to 63 for AT&T U-verse's fiber, 58 for Charter cable and 55 for Comcast/Xfinity's cable.

"Disenchantment with your cable TV service seems to be among life's certainties," Consumer Reports Senior Electronics Editor James K. Willcox wrote in the blog post. "But there were two bright spots, a municipal broadband service run as a public utility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and a fiber service run by Google in a handful of markets across the country."

EPB spokesman John Pless said it was humbling to rank first in the country.

"That's something we work very hard to do to make sure our customers are getting neighbor-to-neighbor service," Pless said. "I think you just respond to the customer's needs quickly, efficiently, listen to your customers and give them service and products that are a good value."

Wilcox said it was the first time a municipal broadband service has appeared in the annual Consumer Reports ranking.

EPB may have gotten a boost in the ratings, he said, because it offers consumers a high-speed choice.

"When consumers are presented a choice, that alone makes them happy," Willcox said. "The average speed among survey respondents was about 25 megabits per second — and in Chattanooga, you're able to get a gig."

EPB, formerly known as the Electric Power Board, was established in 1935 by the state of Tennessee after the Tennessee Valley Authority came into existence in 1933. EPB distributes power generated by TVA.

Aided by a $111.6 million federal stimulus grant awarded in 2009 to build a smart grid, EPB built the nation's first communitywide 1-gigabit-per-second internet system in 2010.

EPB got its start as an electricity provider, Pless said, as a Kiwanis International project. The club's members lobbied the state legislature to create the power board.

"They circulated petitions and surveys and they basically worked with elected officials," said Pless, who's dug up old articles that document EPB's beginnings with the help of a TVA librarian and historian in Knoxville.

©2016 the Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.