Telecom Gives Credits for Services Interrupted by Tornadoes

Nearly one of five customers of EPB's telecom services is getting a break on their monthly bills for April due to the interruptions caused by the storms and tornadoes that ripped through Chattanooga, Tenn.

by Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times / May 28, 2020

(TNS) — Nearly one of every five customers of EPB's internet, video or phone services is getting a break on his or her monthly bill for April due to the interruptions caused by the storms and tornadoes that ripped through Chattanooga, Tenn., on Easter night.

EPB is crediting bills for about 21,000 of the roughly 110,000 subscribers to EPB Fiber Optics services due to outages during the storms and their aftermath. EPB spokesman J.Ed. Marston said Wednesday that the utility is collectively cutting bills by about $438,000, or more than $20 for the average household or business that lost telecommunications services during April.

"Even though the tornadoes and severe weather in April were an act of nature, we want our customers to know how much we appreciate their patience during the restoration," Marston said. "Providing a credit to EPB Fiber Optics customers who experienced a lasting service disruption is our way of doing what we can for them in a very trying circumstance."

Marston said EPB has previously made such credits for fiber optic customers who lost service due to storms or line interruptions, but last month's storms ended up being the costliest for repairs in EPB's 81-year history.

More than 60,000 electricity customers of EPB also lost service due to the April 12-13 storms and their power bills are likely to be down as well because of the drop in electricity usage in the storm- affected areas. EPB revenues through the first 10 months of the year were $21 million below year-ago levels, EPB President David Wade told the EPB board earlier this month.

Although EPB is billing for less revenue as power sales in April dropped to one of the lowest monthly levels in decades, EPB has had to spend more than $30 million to repair broken poles, lines and other equipment damaged across EPB's 600-square-mile service territory during last month's storms.

EPB ended up replacing more than 160 miles of fiber cable and splicing more than 4,300 individual fibers to recover from the tornado damages. Electricity crews at EPB and hundreds of contract workers brought to Chattanooga from other utilities also replaced more than 700 transformers damaged during the storm.

EPB officials hope to make up for most of the extra expenses incurred during the storm with aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which reimburses public agencies up to 75% of their extra costs incurred for storm cleanup and repairs when the federal government deems a storm as a federal disaster.

Chattanooga's biggest private cable TV provider, Comcast, issued credits for those who lost internet or video services during the storms on a case by case basis, company spokeswoman Sara Jo Walker said. Comcast said several thousand customers lost service across Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia when a series of seven tornadoes struck the region and some customers were without service for up to two weeks.

"We also waived equipment fees for those with damaged equipment and we paused account billing for those individuals who lost their homes," Walker said.

©2020 the Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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