Giles County is a rural Tennessee community with an aggressive economic development plan – one that attracts people seeking a small town way of life, but not lacking in modern conveniences. In 2007, civic leaders decided to implement a fiber to the home (FTTH) network because they understood that a robust future depended on providing state-of-the-art communication services.

Pulaski Electric System (PES), which provides power to 15,000 homes and businesses in Giles County, was tasked with the project. Because a project involving laying only 130 miles of optical fiber was not attractive to a large provider, PES decided to do it itself and in doing so, established itself as one of only a few municipal utilities that own and operate their own FTTH network.  

At first, some questioned why PES planned to branch out into broadband. The utility’s position was that FTTH is really an extension of municipal infrastructure, ranking near the same level of importance as roads, schools, water and other essential services.

What sets PES apart is that it leverages the high speed FTTH network for smart grid functionality. The utility selected a Tantalus Utility Network – TUNet – which enables it to use the FTTH network within the city, and 220 MHz RF in rural areas where broadband is not available. This allows PES to drive additional value from the fiber system, implement a redundant data network, and extend advanced metering to outlying areas via the wireless network. As a result, PES can eliminate truck rolls to remote farms and ensure that all customers receive the same high level of service.

This project is an investment in the community that has far reaching benefits. It clears the path for utility modernization, allowing PES to use a single network for triple play media as well as smart grid applications including automated meter reading, instant outage detection, and continual power quality monitoring.  The hybrid AMI network provides full smart grid functionality, cost effectiveness, and flexible expansion options using either the fiber or RF backhaul.

PES anticipates considerable savings as a result of its ability to detect and correct chronic system losses from theft and malfunctioning equipment, faster outage detection and restoration, and eliminating high-cost rural routes. With concurrent use of the network for both triple play services and smart metering, the utility can rapidly achieve its return on investment.

In the near future, PES plans to use the network to help customers increase their own energy efficiency, putting them in greater control of their bills and use of power through direct load control programs and up-to-the-minute presentation of consumption and time-of-use price signals via in-home display devices. Household energy savings alone can help offset the $99 monthly subscription for the phone, internet and television bundle.

PES realized the boon a fiber optic network would bring. Businesses now move large amounts of data at lightning speeds, securely and with unequalled reliability. This is very attractive for residents who prefer to telecommute to jobs in Nashville, Huntsville … or anywhere in the world. It’s also an incentive for young graduates to stay rooted in Pulaski, rather than moving elsewhere.

For the utility, the smart grid technology enables it to bring long term value to its customers by improving operational efficiency and creating a distribution system in which consumers and utilities play an active role in reducing consumption. This goes a long way towards offsetting the rising costs of energy and puts Pulaski in the best position to meet its future economic and electricity needs.