Thursday, March 18, 2010

Davey Resource Group Working on JCPB's Behalf

The Johnson City Power Board (JCPB) has contracted Davey Resource Group (DRG) to complete an inventory of all power poles located within JCPB’s service territory. As DRG completes the inventory process, they will be confirming ownership of each pole within JCPB’s service territory while plotting its GPS coordinates. This information will be invaluable as the JCPB begins to integrate its mapping system with a new software package which will ultimately power JCPB’s smart grid.

Mark Eades, Chief Operations Officer for the JCPB offered, “We [JCPB] opted to contract this work to a third party to ensure our inventory is completed quickly and without disrupting our normal operations.” JCPB has outfitted DRG’s trucks with magnetic JCPB decals. JCPB officials ask that customers cooperate with DRG’s crews as they complete their work. DRG is currently working on JCPB’s pole inventory and is scheduled to complete the work by the end of June, 2010.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

City entering competition for Google super superhighway

Johnson City Press Business Editor

Google this: Johnson City 1 gigabit Internet speed. Google wants to build a superhighway to every home in some American community, and local leaders reckon Johnson City is as good a choice as any for the powerful technology company. The municipal government, Johnson City Power Board and others are teaming up to submit a “Request for Information” by March 26 showing Google why it should select Johnson City for a “beta test” of its entry into the
“fiber-to-the-home” Internet service market.

Google wants to build a fiber optic network that will deliver speeds of 1 gigabit per second — about 100 times faster than the current average broadband speed — in a community of between 50,000 and 500,000. “I recognize we’re in stiff competition, but I think it’s worth some effort to put Johnson City out there,” said Todd Smith, a business management analyst for the city. Smith said a local consultant, Jeff Brunson, alerted him to the Google project a couple weeks ago. Smith thinks the Johnson City area has several strong points in its favor, and he said the economic development potential such a network would bring is incalculable. “Infrastructure any more is not just about building roads, bridges and sewers,” Smith said. “Even if Google doesn’t come to Johnson City, I still think we have to have this conversation of, ‘how do we get ultra high-speed broadband to Johnson City.’ ”

For its part, Google is trying to decide whether it can cost-effectively build faster, more powerful networks and integrating that into its mix of technology services. At the Web page publicizing the request for information, in an embedded YouTube video, Google product manager James Kelly explains the company’s motives in a thick Irish brogue. Kelly says Google wants “to experiment with new ways to make the Web better and faster for everyone, allowing applications that will be impossible today. “We also want to try out new ways to build and operate fiber networks and share what we learn with the world. Finally, we’re going to operate open access networks, meaning we’ll share our network with other service providers
giving users more choice.”

The opportunity comes just as the Johnson City Power Board is considering its own investment into fiber-to-thehome, something already offered by the electricity providers in both Bristols, Tennessee and Virginia. Smith said he sees that as an advantage in Johnson City’s application. “They (JCPB) have done a preliminary economic impact study and a preliminary market analysis, so they have pretty good data that there is a demand for it in this market.” Smith also said Johnson City, with about 75,000 JCPB customers, would be a less expensive choice for Google than some larger metros.

While high-speed Internet is available here, it’s of the more typical 5 and 10 megabit-persecond variety. That is fine for many casual home users, but doesn’t really create the kind of economic opportunities a “larger pipe” could, Smith said. “If you’re Carespark (a regional electronic medical records organization) and you’re trying to get this digital medical records program in space, and get these high capacity files from one doctor’s office to the surgeon’s office, then it
does matter.“If you’re an architect that works from home, or a digital media grad who wants to ship a large digital media file to a company on the West Coast, then it matters.” Larger-scale job opportunities, such as data centers, call centers and other tech-related industries are looking for as much data transmission capacity as they can find, Smith said.

Richie Torbett owns Networking and Computer Connection, a local technology service company, and said a one gig “pipe” would also help existing businesses. “The potential of having that much more bandwidth is great, from doing remote backups to doing more computing in the ‘cloud,’ ’’ Torbett said. He said many businesses now back up files remotely, but can’t do so fast enough with the current smaller bandwidth, unless they add other steps that cost extra money. Torbett also said a new and better alternative to “VoIP” for Internet-based phones, Session Initiated Protocol (SIP), isn’t real viable locally because it requires more bandwidth than many businesses have available. “With enough bandwidth, both those things could make local businesses more competitive,” Torbett said. He also said start-up companies involved in “cloud computing” (providing services to users that don’t get installed directly on the hard drive) will be looking for communities with robust broadband capabilities. “If someone’s wanting to offer software as a service and they’re looking for a place to host their application, they need somewhere with a lot of bandwidth.”

The head of East Tennessee State University’s computer science department also likes the idea and said that strong a fiber optic network “would have a major positive impact on education.” Terry Countermine said online instruction at ETSU has grown from 85 courses in 2004 to 256 last year, and that both the number and quality of those courses could increase if Johnson City gets fiber. “Online instruction would benefit by enabling educators to provide content that depends on high-speed connectivity,” Countermine said. “At a time of shrinking resources in higher education we could use some help.” In keeping with Google’s postmodern business model, Smith said the city will include a video presentation as part of its submission, and is conducting an all-out blitz to generate community support.“We want to get as much feedback as we can for this submission, so we can really demonstrate to Google that not only are the public entities interested, the community support is also out there.” The city and JCPB have set up a Web site that allows community members to show that support at, or send e-mail to