fiberopticSmall utility company EPB SmartNet said last month that it has deployed the “first gigabit broadband service in Kentucky to be available for business customers.” The gigabit service will be available in EPB’s home market of Russellville, Kentucky (population 7,000). EPB SmartNet is not affiliated with the similarly named company that offers gigabit service in Chattanooga, Tenn.

EPB SmartNet previously deployed a fiber-to-the-premises network serving more than 4,000 homes in the Russellville area. The network uses GPON equipment from Calix.

“We built the network in 2010 and started offering broadband services in late fall 2011,” wrote Robert L. White, general manager and superintendent of the Russellville Electric Plant Board, in an email to Telecompetitor. The network was funded through long-term bonds and eventually will support a smart grid deployment.

“The network was built with gigabit capability in mind,” said White. Accordingly the company did not have to make any major changes to support gigabit connectivity. “Customers are all home run Ethernet back to the ONT at the premises.”

EPB’s gigabit service isn’t cheap. The current price is $1495 a month, making it easy to see why the service currently is offered only to businesses.

White said the company plans to offer gigabit service to residential customers in the future. But he said, “We currently have not set a time table for that decision.”

EPB is in the first phase of its smart grid initiative, said White. “We have officially kicked off our AMI deployment which will eventually lead to other smart grid initiatives such as demand response and in-home automation.”

I would be surprised if EPB is the only service provider in Kentucky offering some type of gigabit service to business customers. Competitive carriers and some incumbents now offer gigabit service using metro Ethernet equipment in many metro U.S. markets — and I would think you would find that sort of service available in a market like Louisville.

EPB may be the first company in Kentucky offering gigabit service using FTTP, however. It’s also true that metro Ethernet at gigabit speeds is unlikely to be available in a smaller community like Russellville. Metro Ethernet providers would likely serve business customers in a market of that size by bonding multiple copper loops together that they would lease from the incumbent – and that approach typically doesn’t support gigabit speeds.

Manufacturers of FTTP equipment such as Calix have noted that many service providers have deployed equipment capable of supporting gigabit speeds. Not all of these service providers have opted to offer rates as high as a gigabit. But now that gigabit networks are becoming more and more common, we’re likely to see more companies like EPB beginning to offer gigabit service, perhaps starting out initially with business customers and later moving on to the residential market.