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Chattanooga, TN (August 10, 2015) – EPB and its partners announced they have launched the enrollment process for the NetBridge Student Discount Program, which enables access to discounted high-speed broadband for qualified households with children in Hamilton County’s Free and Reduced Meals Program.
The Hamilton County Department of Education (HCDE) will provide validation in a two-step process through September 20. Families must be qualified by HCDE to receive meal subsidies and provide written permission for HCDE to release that information to EPB. EPB is providing HCDE with permission forms, which local public schools will distribute along with the Free and Reduced Meals application for parents to fill out. After the validation process is complete, EPB Fiber Optics will offer qualified families 100Mbps Internet service for $26.99 per month with no installation fees, contracts or other conditions.
The NetBridge program was announced by Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke during his State of the City address in April. “Chattanooga is home to the fastest, cheapest, most pervasive Internet in the Western Hemisphere – and we must make sure as many citizens as possible have access to this game-changing infrastructure,” Mayor Berke said. “We are a community that comes together to break down barriers. By working with EPB to provide affordable access to high speed Internet, we will help break down barriers to opportunity and bridge the digital divide for young people across our city.”
Partnering with Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger, EPB is also making the NetBridge discount available across the county. All qualified students within EPB’s service area will be able to benefit from the NetBridge discount at their primary residence.
“Education is critical for Hamilton County because we must prepare our students for the high tech companies and jobs we are recruiting and incubating,” Mayor Coppinger said. “The NetBridge program will help more students access Internet resources which can help them prepare for family-wage jobs after they graduate.”
“HCDE is proud to partner with EPB in making the NetBridge Student Discount available to as many eligible students as possible,” said Hamilton County Superintendent Rick Smith. “As we strive to prepare Hamilton County’s young people with the information and skills they need, Chattanooga’s fiber optic network represents a world-class resource to help our students succeed.”
About 20,000 students in Hamilton County meet the criteria to receive meal subsidies.
“Everyone benefits when all of the children in our community have the tools they need to realize their potential,” said EPB president and CEO Harold DePriest. “EPB is honored to be the hometown provider of world-class infrastructure. NetBridge is another example of how EPB strives everyday to come together with our customers and our community leaders to support more job creation and a higher quality of life for everyone in the local area.”
Established as an independent board of the City of Chattanooga in 1935, EPB is a municipally-owned utility that provides electric power and fiber optic communications services as a means of promoting economic development and enhancing quality of life across the local area.
EPB serves nearly 180,000 homes and businesses in a 600 square-mile area that includes greater Chattanooga, as well as parts of surrounding counties and areas of North Georgia.
In 2010, EPB became the first provider in the United States to deliver up to 1 Gig (1,000 mbps) internet speeds utilizing a community-wide fiber optic network that provides access to every home and business in its service area. In 2015, EPB became the first (and to date) only American ISP to make up to 10 Gig (10,000 mbps) internet speeds accessible to all of its residential and commercial customers as a standard offer.
EPB has also utilized its community-wide fiber optic network to deploy the most advanced and highly automated smart grid power management system in the nation. In recognition of EPB’s groundbreaking infrastructure, the Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory are utilizing EPB’s smart grid as a national model for researching and developing best practices. EPB is also the first major power distribution utility to earn the USGBC’s PEER certification for having a highly automated, modernized electric power grid.