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DU will not pursue retail fiber at this time

The Decatur Utilities Board of Directors on June 19 voted to approve an expenditure for engineering design services related to construction of a fiber ring that will connect all DU facilities and serve only the utility's internal needs for high-speed data communication. The board concurred with DU management's recommendation that DU not pursue becoming an Internet Service Provider for end-use retail customers at this time.

"We were encouraged by the projected subscription rates that the market survey determined," said Ray Hardin, Decatur Utilities General Manager. "But in the end analysis, we felt it was more financially prudent to implement the fiber ring for internal use only and reserve the right to revisit retail applications in the future."

Hardin said broadband is a highly competitive landscape in the Decatur area. If subscriptions by retail customers had not met projections, the resulting decrease in revenue would have pushed profitability out past the estimated 15-18 year mark. Other factors include continued volatility in construction materials and labor costs, high interest rates and aggressive pricing by competing providers.

The DU Board approved $110,000 to fund engineering design services for the 47-mile fiber network. Once that design is completed, the project will be put out for bid and a consultant identified to assist with project and construction management. The construction phase will require final approval by the DU Board and Decatur City Council. It is estimated at $4.5 million.

"We expect construction could begin early in 2025," Hardin said.

The proposed fiber ring will support the DU Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) network, automation of the electric grid, DU's Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) system which allow for remote meter reading, and the Demand Side Management (DSM) system.

Uptown Services, LLC, who completed the Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) feasibility study and market survey for Decatur Utilities, will design the network.

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