Blog Archive

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Roll Over or Get Tough?

It warms our heart to see two titans of the cable television world slugging it out over an issue that has been affecting us in Glasgow for years. As 2008 was coming to a close we were enraged by the heavy-handed demands of broadcast stations in Bowling Green, Nashville, and Louisville, for payment of huge fees for the right to carry their signals on our cable television system. Now it is Time Warner Cable and News Corporation (the owners of the many Fox stations we all know) who are locked in a dispute over the very same thing.

I have to admit cheering when Time Warner introduced this website to educate and take the pulse of their customers on the question of whether they should get tough and refuse to pay the exorbitant fees demanded by Fox or just roll over and pay them, and, in turn, pass the cost along to the customers. On a far, far smaller scale, we have been there and done that. We too have had a long running battle with Fox over their Fox Sports South service and the UK basketball games they own each year. We too have felt the sting of criticism from our customers who feel that no price is too high where a University of Kentucky basketball game is concerned, while the majority of our customers applaud our steadfast refusal to pay Fox Sports South over $100,000 per year for the rights to these games. So, it is nice to see this matter get some serious nationwide attention when two heavy weight contenders climb into the ring.

This article in today’s New York Times does a fine job of examining the problem from all angles. I hope you will click on the link and take a few minutes to read this article. It would also do us all a lot of good for you to ponder this matter and continue to give us feedback on our own struggle to decide between getting tough or rolling over for the demands of all programming providers, but especially the broadcast stations. Less than two years from now we will be locked in discussions with the likes of WBKO, WTVF, WNKY, WSMV, and WHAS again. We will be facing the luxury of having multiple NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox stations from Bowling Green, Nashville, and Louisville, versus the financial reality that these stations are demanding dramatically escalating payments for programming which was designed to be sent out over the airwaves for free.

The really frustrating part of this is that the entities demanding the outrageous fees always hold some sort of popular programming as a hostage - most of the time it is sports programming of some sort, and we as a society seem all too willing to negotiate, and pay the ransom, demanded by the hostage takers. Perhaps the most telling part of the NYT article linked above is at the end when Senator John Kerry is quoted as calling upon Time Warner and News Corporation to hurry up and reach an agreement because "millions of football fans are depending on it." Are we as a people willing to thus negotiate with hostage takers? You betcha.

Should we roll over or should we get tough and actually drop some of these stations because they are asking for too much money? You now have less than two years to let us know before we face the same matter that the people of New York, Los Angeles and other cities are facing right now. Please let us know how you feel.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Go Ahead - Open It Now!

We’ve got some new stuff for you, and we just cannot wait any longer. First of all, your internet service has been upgraded! Our standard cable modem download speed of 1.5 Mbps is now 2.5 Mbps. Our second tier speed that was 4 Mbps is now 5 Mbps. Merry Christmas! This is not going to increase your service cost. Double Merry Christmas!

There is one thing you need to do to make your cable modem download the new speed limit. You need to go to your cable modem, determine where its power cord is, and unplug it for thirty seconds. After that brief pause, plug it back in and give it a few minutes to reconfigure itself, then start enjoying your early Christmas present from the EPB. We hope that everyone will take a minute to perform this operation. While we could make a rather drastic move and operate a switch at a substation that would power cycle all cable modems at once, (along with all other power consuming devices in town) well . . . that is a really dramatic action that we would rather not take.

But wait, there’s more! If you subscribe to our HD (High Definition) tier of programming, you have another gift to unwrap. Coming to your HD cable box right now is about 20 new HD channels! To get these new channels, you don’t really have to do anything. Right now the new channels are being downloaded to the I-Guide on your HD box and you will be able to start enjoying all of this new HD programming in time for all of your holiday gatherings. And, like the speedier internet service discussed above, there is no additional charge for these new channels. Further, if you are getting a new HD television for Christmas, there is even more good news! We will waive our regular $30 HD installation charge until the end of the year if you sign up soon while we still have installation slots left.

Merry Christmas Glasgow, from your EPB team!
Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How About Some Less Expensive Energy for the Holidays?

The rate you pay for electric power will, once again, go down a little in December. This is another rather bizarre situation wherein the EPB rate is increasing overall just under 3%, but the TVA FCA (Fuel Cost Adjustment) is going down about 5.5% at the same time. That means that our customers will see an average reduction in the rate they pay of about 2.5% for December. But, as we have warned you in the past, don’t get too used to that low rate because it will surely go back up over the next several months. Of course, the amount of your bill will depend, as always, on how much energy you use.

For the EPB’s part, the rate increase is necessary raise the funds necessary to make the payments on the new substation we are building. This new facility will provide Glasgow with a second route for energy to enter the city and will increase our network dependability as we strive to refurbish the old single delivery point substation that has served our community for the last thirty five years. Construction is already taking place on this new substation and it should be in service by the end of 2010.

If you want to examine the newest effective electric power rate schedule in detail, you can get a paper copy at our office or you can view it online at this link.

The TVA FCA has been going down now for the last several months due to the fact that this unusually mild weather, coupled with our economic doldrums, has resulted in far less energy being consumed. Of course, with less energy consumption, there comes a dramatically reduced need to purchase fuel to consume in TVA’s production of electric power. However, their forecast is for this trend to reverse (who doesn’t want to forecast that the economy will improve?) and that the FCA will start increasing the net cost of power for the next six months.

Of course, all of this rate activity will ultimately result in a total change in the way energy is sold throughout the region which will take effect in October 2010. This change will be the new TOU (Time Of Use) rate that we have been talking with you about for many months. But, until then, enjoy the lower power rates for your holiday events during December! For, just like most good things (and bad for that matter), this too shall pass.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009

UPDATE on UK Men's Basketball Games

Here is the latest on UK Men's Basketball and the tournament they are playing in this week. UK vs Cleveland St. will be at 3:30 pm today. Depending on whether they win or lose, Wednesday's game will be at either 6:00pm or 8:30pm.

We cannot get either of these games to show on our cable system. Eddie Russell, our Cable Manager, contacted everyone we could think of yesterday, CBS College Sports Programming Manager, UK Media Office, etc. Apparently our state owned university thought it a good idea to sign a contract with a tournament which, in turn, gave the tournament organizers the right to allow the games to be exclusively marketed to Insight Cable, for only a handful of markets in the state. That means that if you pay state taxes and live in Louisville, Lexington, or Bowling Green, your taxes get you a shot at seeing our university play basketball in this tournament. If you live elsewhere, like here in Glasgow, then you pay but don't get to play. Even our state capital Frankfort will not have it, according to our friends at the Frankfort Plant Board.

Obviously, we all think this situation is quite unfair. The folks at our University should not sign a deal to participate in a tournament that is not going to make the video of the games available to everyone in Kentucky, period.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Frozen Pictures and Blue Screens

Over the last few weeks we have started to experience some problems with the delivery of the broadcast stations from Nashville and Louisville. This trouble manifests itself as a frozen image or blank screen, and it is one that we predicted long ago as the FCC mandated that broadcast stations change from analog to digital. Back in 2006 our newsletter carried full details of this matter and, since our prediction is coming true and some folks are concerned, I am reprinting that 2006 article below:

With apologies to Professor Harold Hill and everyone associated with The Music Man. . . Well, we got trouble my friend, right here in Broadband City. . .I say trouble with a capital “T” and that rhymes with “D” and that stands for digital broadcast signals.

That’s right. Digital broadcast is trouble. It might not be as bad as the game of pool was in River City, but it certainly gets us some calls and occasional criticism from our customers. These calls are because of signal interruptions on cable channels carrying broadcast stations in Louisville and Nashville. We did not cause these problems and solutions are particularly vexing and expensive. While we think we have explained this matter ad nauseum in the past, we keep getting questions about it so we are going to try once again. Here goes.

If you have been watching a program which originates at a broadcast station in Louisville or Nashville, and the picture freezes, pixilates (falls apart into something resembling puzzle pieces), has interruptions to the sound, has episodes where people’s lips and the sound are not in synch, or the picture just goes away and is replaced by a blue screen with the words “no signal”, you suffer from a malady much worse than Restless Leg Syndrome. You are experiencing analog-to-digital-conversion-syndrome (ADCS). However, neither Merck nor Pfizer has a pill, of any color, which will cure ADCS. It is one of the great failures of the American pharmaceutical industry.

To better understand this disease, we must first make sure everyone understands just what “analog” and “digital” mean. Up until about three years ago all transmission of television signals from stations that broadcast to people with an antennae, as well as to cable operators with a very big antenna, was done via analog transmission. Analog simply means real, measurable, or continuously variable. Hmmm, that might not be clear enough. How about this? If you still have a watch that has a bunch of little springs and cogs and gears in it that rotate and whir about resulting
in a big hand and a little hand telling you what time it is, you have an analog watch. It gives you the time by knowing how far to move those hands in a minute. Similarly, analog broadcast signals carried moving pictures by constantly modulating certain frequencies that were sent out over the airwaves to be picked up by an antenna and tuned by a television set. Okay? Analog was a great way to send out television signals. While never perfect, analog signals carried for a long way and that helped places like Glasgow to get news and programming from far away places like Nashville
and Louisville. As weather or other interference occurred in the analog world, the signal would degrade some, our customers might have seen a bit more noise in the picture, but it would still be watchable. As you can see in the graphic, Glasgow was never in the “good” range of analog transmission from those cities, but we made it work pretty well because analog signals are very resilient and tunable over a wide range of power levels. But, as technology and greed marched along together over the last several years, other companies like cell phone providers and other wireless systems began to lobby Congress and the FCC to force the broadcasters to use new digital broadcast technology. In theory this new technology is far superior and uses a lot less of
the broadcast spectrum (that means a lot of the old analog frequencies would be available for more cell phones and other things with buttons, screens and irritating noises that keep you from being able to enjoy any peace and quiet anywhere). Therefore, as is often the case, while you were not watching Congress and the FCC agreed with the lobbyists and decided that all television broadcasters should abandon the old analog technology and replace it with new-fangled digital
transmission technology. I think maybe they all got a free cell phone for making this decision.

Earlier we described analog as being measurable or real, but digital is quite different. Let’s go back to the watches. If your watch is not analog it is digital. With a digital watch there are no moving parts - no wheels, springs, or gears. A digital watch just has a little processor in it running a program. The program counts little electronic pulses and converts that calculation into lighting up some little diodes to display something like “1:27". Digital television transmission is like that as well. It has no “moving parts”. Instead, it sends you a staggering flow of 0's and 1's that our receiver
here interprets, and performs calculations on. Instead of telling a bunch of LED’s to display “1:27", it converts the calculations into near perfect pictures and colors that appear on your television set and allow you to see that those Desperate Housewives have quite the colorful life. Now you know all there is to know about analog and digital transmission. Don’t you feel technical now?

Now let’s look again to the graphic because there is one more thing to know. Digital signals do not carry as far as analog signals. In addition, digital signal does not slowly deteriorate and remain watchable as the signal gets weaker. Since the digital signal is not “real” but only a long series of binary numbers that need to be computed by our receiver, when some of those numbers come up missing because of weak signal, the picture does not compute so it just falls apart and stops. Depending on your television, this results in a frozen picture, a puzzle mess, or a blue screen. The
power levels and the frequencies allotted for digital transmission have one clear result; they were never intended to carry more than about 50 miles! As you can see on the graphic, we are outside of the intended range of digital transmission from both Louisville and Nashville. This is not our fault because we did not pick where Glasgow is located. Further, we did not pick the digital transmission standards. Very “smart” people in Washington D.C. did that.

Okay, now you know about analog and digital and you have a map to show that we are in the digital hinterlands. You also know that none of this is our fault. All that is left for us to discuss is the fact that you expect us to fix it anyway, right? Well we have been working on that.

Like everything else, this matter comes down to money. There are ways to improve upon this situation. We can install an antenna closer to the broadcast stations and bring the signal to Glasgow via fiber. We can also purchase the signals from certain satellite vendors for delivery
to our receiving dish. But most of these solutions spend tons of money for very little additional signal improvement. With this economy, that just seems unwise.

That is how we explained it nearly four years ago. Since then we have done a ton of expensive work improving our antennae and getting some signals delivered via fiber. Also, retransmission consent changes in 2008 changed to menu of stations we are trying to deliver. We made decisions based upon what stations we thought we could deliver and the capacity of our antennae systems to deliver them with reliability. Most of those decisions have been good. The slate of Louisville and Nashville stations we are able to deliver in High Definition is long and the troubles have been very few. BUT, none of this is perfect. We can accept 98% reliability for stations like WHAS and WSMV or we can choose to drop them entirely if they are not 100% perfect all of the time. We would be interested in hearing from our customers if they feel we should react to this dilemma differently.

Monday, November 16, 2009

UPDATE on UK Men's Basketball Games

We have learned that things are not nearly as dark as we thought they were going to be for some of the UK Men’s basketball games. In a previous blog post we listed about six games that were exclusive to Fox Sports South that we assumed would be unavailable to our customers due to our steadfast refusal to pay Fox’s ransom demands for these games. However, things have improved over the last few days!

Tonight’s game, which features the debut of super freshman John Wall, will be live on EPB channel 15, WMYO, at 6:00 p.m. with a preview starting at 5:30 p.m., and there is more good news! Here is an updated schedule of the next few games and when they will appear on our cable system:

11-19-09 vs. Sam Houston St. 9:00 p.m. EPB Channel 12

11-21-09 vs. Rider 4:00 p.m. EPB Channel 12

11-30-09 vs. Asheville still looks like we might not get this one

12-23-09 vs. Long Beach State 4:00 p.m. EPB Channel 12

When we know more about any of these important games, we will let you know right here on the Red, Blue & Green blog!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009

If We Work Really Hard, Maybe We Can Stop This

It is now clear that many folks were waving red flags about the rampant greed and corruption that finally laid waste to our economy over a year ago. Those folks were ignored, but surely we have learned to pay more attention to similar warnings. Surely we are ready to take action against greed before it creates another tsunami which threatens to wash us off our island. If so, I have a red flag to wave.

It has now been a year since we were forced to start paying broadcasters like WBKO for the privilege of putting up an antenna and picking up the signals they send through the air over our homes and businesses (and the last time I checked, that air belongs to us not the broadcast television stations). The people of Glasgow will pay about $150,000 this year to receive broadcast programming which had been free since the beginning of broadcast television. In fact, this year we will pay nearly $40,000 of that to just one broadcast station, WBKO in Bowling Green! We have two more years left on the three year agreements which created these ransom payments.

Every time I sign one of those checks I am enraged, but I see even more ominous clouds on the horizon. Forget about waving a red flag. Our local outdoor warning sirens should be going off to warn us of the likely merger of Comcast Cable and NBC Universal! Comcast is the largest cable system operator in the country serving about 25 million cable customers. That means they are already a financial behemoth and a darling of our friendly “money changers” in the temple of Wall Street. They also already own a significant number of the channels they carry on those cable systems. Those services include: E! Entertainment, Style Network, Versus, The Golf Channel, and G4. While significant, these are not the most popular channels on any cable system. So, if they jacked up the rates on these channels, no one would feel particularly put upon if their cable operator simply dropped them. Such would not be the case if Comcast is allowed to merge with NBC Universal. Then they would control services like: Bravo, CNBC, MSNBC, NBC Sports, Oxygen, and USA Networks. Comcast would also own Universal Pictures, which releases several blockbuster movies per year. It would also own stakes in web sites including Hulu and iVillage.

So, at the end of this contract period, since Glasgow EPB is municipally owned and not on the list of companies that will be getting a Christmas card from Comcast, what might it cost us to carry NBC broadcast stations? How much might we have to pay to see the Olympics or anything else on NBC Sports? A few years ago Stephen Colbert did a great “news” piece on AT&T and how it was finally broken up by our government’s anti-trust regulators, only to slowly reassemble itself so that it is bigger and more monopolistic than ever. Click here to see that hilarious video. Comcast is threatening to rival AT&T in its size and economic power. It is amazing to me that so many of us are still railing against “big government regulation” when it is small and weak government oversight that resulted in the economic mess we are in today and continues to promise more of the same if they allow themselves to be run over and out maneuvered by companies like Comcast. Do we need more mergers like this one or do we need less cooperation between giant companies like Comcast and NBC Universal?

I say we need to stop this merger in its tracks.
Friday, October 30, 2009

Another World -- Delayed

It would be great if everyone would watch Now on PBS tonight. It is on KET1 at 8:30. The video above is nice, but it just has more punch when you actually watch the program on television...especially on EPB cable! (sorry about the shameless plug)

The program does a great job helping everyone see the sort of relationship between energy consumers and energy providers that we have been trying to bring about in Glasgow, both from the EPB's perspective and from Sustainable Glasgow's perspective. For those of you who might have read my recent series of articles entitled Another World - Parts 1 - 3, you got a good feel for how we have been planning the technology to change this relationship. We were counting heavily on being able to roll the technology out to the whole community over the next couple of years through the economic stimulus funds announced earlier this year and administered through the US Department of Energy (DOE). Unfortunately, just this week the winners of those grants were announced and Glasgow was not among the successful applicants.

In fact, of the $3.4 billion made available for "smart grid" projects, no cities in Kentucky were given a dime. Meanwhile, places like Chattanooga and Knoxville, and Memphis got hundreds of millions of dollars for projects. It sort of makes you wonder just what a city like Glasgow, who has moved the infotricity ball steadily down the field for twenty years, would have to do to be considered worthy of some modicum of support from our federal government. Weren't we supposed to be represented by an exceedingly connected and powerful Senator? Hmmm...

So, that means we are back to where we have always been, doing the hard work and science of understanding how to change the way people use electric power all by ourselves. That means that the new world we discussed over the last few weeks, and the one better represented in the video story about Denmark, is going to be a bit slower in coming and a lot more expensive for us to put in place, but we are not about to give up on the idea. Stay tuned for our continued work with Google and other technology partners to bring new technology to the people of Glasgow. We can probably move more quickly and learn more by continuing our guerrilla warfare methods than we could have done if we had gotten all of that money anyway (even though I certainly would have liked to have experienced what life would be like with someone giving us money).
Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Second Power Delivery Point for Glasgow - On the Way

After five years of study, planning, pondering, and design, the Glasgow EPB just gave final approval to the plan to build a second power delivery point for the City of Glasgow. For the last thirty five years Glasgow’s electricity, all of it, came through a single substation at Haywood. Like the author, this station is aging and its reliability has become of great concern, since there are multiple devices in the substation that could fail, resulting in a complete loss of power for Glasgow. Obviously, this is something we must avoid.

Still, the decision has been difficult. On the one hand, one might feel that, since the city has been served well by one delivery point for the last several decades, the risk of failure is low and we might well get by a few more decades without making this major investment. If we could become comfortable with this risk, we certainly could save a lot of money. However, aging infrastructure is leading to disasters in other communities. The levees in New Orleans, the Interstate 35 bridge collapse in Minnesota, and other failures where saving money lead to disaster, and ultimately far greater cost, certainly weighed heavily on our minds as we pondered this decision.

On the other hand, refurbishing the Haywood Substation was really not a viable option. Replacing major components of the substation would require that the substation be out of service for an extended period. If this substation were out of service, everyone in Glasgow would be in the dark. So, we are officially beginning the construction of a new power delivery point which will be located off Tompkinsville Road near where it crosses the Cumberland Parkway. TVA has already constructed about seven miles of new 161 kV transmission line to serve the new substation. Soon, a local construction company, Larry Glass Construction, will start the earthwork necessary to build the substation. By the end of 2010, this new asset should be serving our community and the arterial portions of our electric power network in Glasgow will be vastly more robust. That does not mean that car wrecks, storms, and critters will not be able to cause some power outages. It does mean that our whole city will have a redundant source of power should any major component fail in either the old substation or the new one. It means we will not be guilty of putting short term savings over long term attention to the infrastructure necessary to make our homes safe and secure.

Of course, this improved power delivery system is going to cost money; a lot of money. By the time all costs for construction and upgrades to our transmission lines are in, the new delivery point will cost about $7 million. To make the payments on this additional debt, we have already asked for permission from TVA for a retail rate increase to become effective in January 2010. This increase will likely amount to something in the neighborhood of a 3% increase to the monthly power bills for all customers of Glasgow EPB. We will keep you posted on the details of this increase as the numbers firm up over the next few weeks. As we all know, this will be particularly difficult since some large power users have left us over the last several months due to the economic downturn, and others certainly could leave in the future. So, knowing just how much rates will need to increase will require us to have an accurate crystal ball which can predict what city-wide electricity usage is going to be over the next several years. Please let us know if you have one of those.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009

EPB Cable and UK Men's Basketball

As the television watching season comes into its prime, it seems like a great time for us to talk a bit about what we know about changes for this fall and, to discuss the all-important University of Kentucky Men’s basketball schedule. Follow along and we will tell you everything we know about these matters.

Earlier in the year we were happy to hear that ESPN story link has purchased the rights to all South Eastern Conference sports for a fifteen year period. Now, while we are still not big fans of ESPN because of the outrageous fees they charge us, we were at least happy that we would be getting all of the UK games included in the fees we were already contractually committed to pay ESPN. As usual, our happiness has been dashed. The very latest attack on our spirit is that ESPN has bitten off more than they can chew and they have resorted to selling several of the “UK vs CupcakeU” games to our old nemesis, Fox Sports South. However, we are happy to report that University of Kentucky's Big Blue Madness will appear on ESPNU (our channel 149) beginning at 8 p.m. on October 16. WBKO will also air the event starting at 6:00 p.m. on their CW station (our channel 12).

As we are still steadfastly convinced that the last thing we need to do to the local economy is to take an additional $100,000 per year out of it to send it to Fox Sports South in return for a few games against very weak opponents, the following games will not be available on the EPB cable system:

11/2/2009 UK vs. Campbellsville

11/6/2009 UK vs. Clarion

11/19/2009 UK vs. Sam Houston State

11/21/2009 UK vs. Rider

11/30/2009 UK vs. UNC Asheville

12/23/2009 UK vs. Long Beach State

I know that many of you will find this disappointing. Well, actually some of you will find it closer to horrific, but “disappointing” is a much nicer word. There might be a few other games that are on BBSN (Big Blue Sports Network) which should be available on WBKO or on WDRB on our system, but even some of them might be blacked out if ESPN chooses to do so (don’t ask me why they would, but they tell us this is possible). Of course, even this information is still changeable depending on how well the UK team does and how popular their games are in the early season. We will certainly do our best to keep you posted on this as we get the information ourselves.

There is also a fairly significant change to our KET channels which just occurred on October 1. KET is rearranging things and we are following along with them. For the last several years KET has operated KET, KET2, KET3 HD, and KET4. Now they are moving all of their HD programming to regular KET. They are keeping KET2 as it is and they are replacing KET 4 with KET KY.

On our system that means that the regular KET programming will continue to be on channel 11, but the high definition version of that programming will be on channel 511. KET2 programming will remain on our channel 23 and also on digital channel 192. The new KET KY programming will only be on our digital channel 193. We are not sure just what programming will appear on KET KY, but their intention is to fill it mainly with documentaries by and about people and places in Kentucky.

Feel free to comment and ask questions by using the link below labeled “comment.”
Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lunch and Learn at Mary Wood Weldon Public Library

Okay, we have just scheduled the first EPB "Lunch and Learn" session at the new Mary Wood Weldon Public Library. The talk will be about EPB services, the coming new electric rates, and social networking on the internet (and anything else that the attendees want to hear about). It will be from noon until 1:00 p.m. on October 19. Email Shelia Hogue at to request a reservation for the first of what we hope will become monthly Lunch and Learn sessions about Glasgow EPB services. You will enjoy a great lunch from a locally owned restaurant and you might learn some cool new ways to get the most out of the services you already buy from Glasgow EPB!
Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Great Man -- Jeff Foster

Often, all too often it seems, we find ourselves suspending our discussion of EPB issues to talk about the loss of a member of our community. This is another one of those occasions as we ponder the highly untimely passing of one Jeffrey T. "Bubba" Foster. In this case, the eulogy is authored by someone who has earned the right to say a few words about Jeff, his former neighbor and student, Kimberly Carrico. Her excellent article is reprinted below with her permission.

A Great Man

The world lost a great man today. He was not rich, unless you count
the lives he touched. He was not famous, although almost everyone in Glasgow
knew his name. He was not a powerful man, but he influenced more lives
than most people could ever hope to do.

Mr. Foster (for that is how I will always think of him) came into my
life when I was 7 years old. I was in 3rd grade he was my new Principal. Now,
the man who held that position before him was a mythic person. Like
Sauron in The Lord of the Rings he was a presence often felt, but rarely
seen. I'm not sure that, had I been forced to, I could have picked him
out of a lineup and I'm almost positive that he had no idea who I was.

Mr. Foster, on the other hand, greeted me by name (first, middle, and
last) out in front of the school that first morning and every morning
after. Rain or shine he was there to open the car door and start my
morning with a hearty "Good Morning Kimberly Marie Carrico, my neighbor!"
I had lived down the street from him almost my entire life, but until
that first morning I had never spoken to him and the fact that this very
important adult knew my name (my name!) made me feel important too.

By the time I left his school I had read almost every book in the
school library, I could multiply (sort of anyway) and divide, I knew the basics
of US and World History, and my life long love affair of science had
begun. I had learned a great deal about a lot of things, but the most
important lessons I learned didn't come from a book. He taught me about
respect by showing respect to everyone. He taught me about responsibility
by always taking responsibility for his actions. He even taught me to
work hard by constantly being the hardest working person I knew (and the
best whistler too).

But the most important thing I learned from him in my 3 years under
his care was that, despite my young age, I was important. He was the first
adult that spoke to me like I was his equal. He was the first adult to
treat me like my opinions were just as valid as his. He was the first
adult to make me feel like a person.

Over the years he was always there with a smile and a hand when I
arrived at school. He never failed to buy a box of Girl Scout Cookies when I (or
any other girl) came knocking. Every Saturday morning I knew to look for
him washing his Corvette in his driveway and whistling away. And no
matter when or where I saw him, he always spoke to me and called me by
name. Always.

My favorite Mr. Foster story is from the summer after my Freshman
year in college. A few of my new friends from school had come down for the
weekend and I was taking them over to Mammoth Cave. I knew, due to the
last minute nature of our trip and the fact that it was high summer,
there was no way we were going to get tickets for a cave tour, but I
figured we could at least walk down and look at the entrance to the cave.
But first, we went into the Visitor's Center to grab a couple of maps.
Who did I find behind behind the information desk but Mr. Foster.

He, of course, greeted me by name, asked after my family, and then
proceeded to question me about my first year at school. When he found out
who my friends were, he insisted that they see the cave. After I
explained that we didn't have any tickets and all the tours for the day
were sold out, he leaned over the counter and smiled. That was no problem
he assured me, he was giving a tour in a few hours and if we met him
outside then, he would take care of us.

And take care of us he did. We met him outside at the appointed time
and he folded us into his tour group. We walked with the group down to the
entrance to the cave and stood in line at the gate as the other guide
took up tickets. When our turn came, Mr. Foster simply smiled at the
guide (who was probably not much older than we were), patter his chest
pocket, and said "I have these ladies' tickets right here." The other
guide nodded his head and we walked in.

I have been to the Cave enough times to recite every tour along with
the guide, but I had never been on a tour like that one. He picked on me, of
course, because that's what he did, but I didn't mind. And my friends
left the cave that day as much in love with it as he was. Once again he
had made me feel special.

That was his gift. He made everyone he met feel special. Important.
Loved. He was one of those rare people who seemed to have an infinite
ability to love. And to know him was to be loved by him. Every child who
passed through the door to his school (and their siblings and parents)
became important to him. He learned their names. He learned their likes
and dislikes. He took the time to get to know them. And by doing so, he
made each and every one of them feel special.

Yes, the world lost a great man today. He wasn't rich or famous, but
the wealth he left behind him is priceless. Because he lived, an entire
generation of children learned to see themselves as important. Because he
lived, the world is a better place. And that is worth more than all the
money in world.

Written by: Kimberly Carrico

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

October 1, Rates Go Up, Yet Bills Go Down

On October 1, the base rate you pay for electric power from Glasgow EPB will go up by about 8.3% but your net rate will go down by 2.2%. Is that confusing enough? I’m telling you. There is just no way to make this stuff up!

Here is the underlying reasoning for any of you willing to plow through it. First, TVA’s financial goose is pretty well cooked. Due to the economy, sales of electric power have taken a nose dive. TVA will sell about 8% less electricity this year than they did the year before. In the world of planning for electric power generation, this sort of result is not even considered, but, since it happened anyway, the financial impact on TVA is earth shaking. Additionally, TVA is facing the one billion-dollar cost (estimated) of cleaning the coal ash spill at Kingston and the two and one half billion dollar projected cost of expedited clean up of the coal plants in east Tennessee which have been found to be polluting the air over North Carolina. Any way you slice it, these matters add up to real money.

So, TVA is turning to additional cost cutting measures, borrowing additional money, and to increasing the rates they charge for electricity sold to distributors like Glasgow EPB. On October 1 our wholesale rates from TVA will increase by about 8.5%. However, the rates we pay, and the rates we pass along to you, are made up of several components. Two of the components are the base rates and the FCA (Fuel Cost Adjustment). We just explained the increase to the base rates, but there is also a coming decrease to the FCA. That is how you are going to wind up with a net decrease on October 1.

The FCA is designed to allow wholesale and retail electric rates to vary depending on what TVA has to pay for fuels which often sell for prices that vary greatly from month to month. Over the last several months the FCA amount charged by TVA has actually dramatically over collected for fuel costs compared to the actual recent trends, which, not surprisingly given the pitiful state of the economy, have gone down. So, TVA is drastically reducing the FCA amount in order to refund that over collection to the customers. While the base rate is going up by 8%, the FCA is going down an amount which results in an 11% reduction to our power costs. Adding these two together creates the roughly 2.2% reduction to your power bills, which will take effect on October 1.

We would be less than fully open if we did not advise you to refrain from celebrating this short term rate reduction too much. The thing to remember here is that the base rate is being increased dramatically. Base rate increases very seldom go away. Meanwhile, the FCA is about to change from being adjusted quarterly to being adjusted monthly. So, it is highly likely that the FCA adjustments over the next several months will erase the warm memory of the October 1 net reduction rather quicky. Like so many wonderful things about October: apples, colorful leaves, and Halloween candy, the rate reduction will come and go quickly. Try to enjoy it while it lasts!
Monday, August 10, 2009

Another World - Part 3 of 3

As we move toward another world with respect to electric power, we certainly want to take advantage of the things we have learned over the last few years as we prepared for this new adventure. During our years of experience at providing electric power, then cable television, then internet service, and finally telephone service, we figured out several things about our customers here in Glasgow. For example, we know that our customers like it best when we take care of their technology decisions, the training for using new technology, the implementation of new technology, and you also like it when we provide ongoing support for any troubles in using our various products and services. We know that very few of our customers actually understand what a kilowatt-hour is, and further, we understand that you really don’t want to know what one is.

All of these lessons learned lead us to believe that very few of our customers will be interested in us just simply implementing a TOU (time of use) electric rate schedule and then leaving it up to them to install programmable thermostats and other switches and controls that could be used to save money on a TOU rate. This experience is what gives us a head start on the other utilities, and equipment vendors, who are trying to roll out programmable devices and homeowner electric meter information sites in the hope that customers will use these devices to lower the peak demand on electric systems. They still assume it will work, we are cynical about that because of our experience with customers and the many new technologies we have implemented for them over the years.

We believe infotricity can become a reality and that the advent of infotricity will reduce the peak demand for electric power and allow fewer carbon dioxide belching generators to satisfy our need for energy. But we also are convinced that the utility will need to reach far into the home and provide much of the control of HVAC systems and major appliances for the benefits of infotricity to become a reality. That rattles some folks as they see this as an intrusion into energy use decisions that have always been their right. We certainly do not expect to reach in and control anything in your home without your permission. We believe there will always be the option to refuse to cooperate on these new load management controls, but it is also very likely that such refusal will result in much higher electric rates for those that wish to remain ruggedly independent. As stated previously in this series, the days of artificially low electric rates made possible by some users subsidizing the habits of less efficient users is coming to a screeching halt. It really does not require a crystal ball to predict that outcome.

So, coming around the bend are our plans to convince you to allow us, and/or our local contractors, to install a programmable thermostat for your electric heat pumps and air conditioners, and we will be trying to negotiate a deal with you that will allow us to slightly increase and decrease the temperature in your home in return for a credit on your bill. We will be trying to convince you to allow us to control when your electric water heater does its work. We may also be trying to convince you to allow our local vendors to install new refrigerators, dish washers, clothes dryers, etc., that will also respond to our control signals such that electric power demand can be shaped more efficiently. All of these things are coming, and the technology that allows all of this to happen will be possible because of the broadband network that we started building back in 1988. While all of these new technologies are complicated and amazing marvels of modern science, we know that the really tough part of this process will be getting the word out.

As a reader of this blog, you represent one of the roughly one thousand folks who read this information each month. Since there are at least seven thousand homes and businesses in Glasgow that we need communicate with about these matters, we need to find a better way to communicate with the rest of our customers who do not read this blog. We also have access to cable advertising, which we will also use to inform folks about this new world and the things we need to do to help them live happily in it, but we know from experience that many folks will swear they never heard about it on television either. We will use radio advertising, electronic signs around town, and direct messages contained in the monthly billing. Still, we know that many will not be reached this way either. We might try sky writing as it seemed to work for the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, but I am still skeptical of it working here in Glasgow. If you have ideas on how we can do a better job of getting this information out, please let me know.

So, as we have said, another world is coming. It might arrive as soon as November of this year. So what can you be doing right now to prepare for it? Well, this whole new world is going to revolve around the use of electric power. If you have a natural gas water heater and gas heating, you should consider moving toward electric powered appliances if you want the opportunity to free yourself from the massive cost swings associated with natural gas. If your water heater fails within the next couple of months, consider a high efficiency electric water heater as it will work with infotricity. If you are considering the installation of a programmable thermostat, well, perhaps you should wait a few months on that because we might be doing that for you. Most of all, the best way to prepare for this new world is to make yourself available to listen to the things that are going to be available to you in the new world, and help us get your neighbor’s attention as well. We truly want to help every single resident of Glasgow understand what the new world is going to be like and we want everyone to understand what wonderful opportunities are coming our way.
Friday, August 7, 2009

Another World - Part 2 of 3

For a long time you have heard me talk about infotricity and time-of-use electric rates. These are really just tools which are evolving as useful ways to get us to the promised land of real cost-based electric rates. The newest buzz word relative to the implementation of new technology that will lead to widespread adoption of time-of-use electric rates is “smart grid” and we are applying for the funding to implement more of that technology in Glasgow.

Smart Grid and Stimulus Money are two terms that surely no one has been able to escape over the last several months. Those of you who are familiar with the activities of the EPB over the last twenty plus years will know that our broadband project was born with the objective of changing everything about how electric power is metered, sold, controlled, and purchased. While we have been calling that concept “infotricity” over the last couple of decades, the new catch phrase applied to the idea of using broadband to change the way electric power operates is “smart grid.” It really is not a new idea at all.

A year ago TVA approached us with the idea of using Glasgow as a test site for our long-held ideas about using broadband to control loads like air conditioners and water heaters. We gladly accepted their offer to purchase the devices that need to be tested for performance and reliability. However, before that project could ever get moving, along came this economic mess and the passage of the legislation that earmarked tons of federal monies for infrastructure projects, including smart grid projects. Both TVA and TVPPA (the trade association of the TVA power distributors) became totally consumed with the prospect of getting $400 million worth of this money by creating a regional consortium of TVA distributors willing to commit to installing smart grid technology and demonstrating how the technology might be used to mitigate the need for additional generation facilities. As you might expect, Glasgow is right in the middle of this whole discussion.

While we agreed to work with TVA and TVPPA and EPRI and Oak Ridge National Laboratories on this consortium, we also monitored the application process to see if we also wanted to apply for some of the funding separately from the consortium, assuming that we could qualify for some of the monies directed toward smaller projects and smaller municipalities. The EPB team did a great job getting up to speed on the rules of the game (which are more complicated and voluminous than anyone dreamed possible) and we developed a game plan for our possible projects along with the consortium plan.

The prospect for us attracting stimulus funds for our smart grid ideas seems to be a pretty good possibility. However, after the team analyzed the rules, it became clear that we could not hedge our bets by applying with the consortium and then again on our own. So, we are putting all of our eggs and effort into the TVPPA-EPRI-TVA-ORNL basket. We have submitted our preliminary request for funding that would allow us to install the muNet meters at each of our 7,400 homes and businesses. We asked for money that we can use to pay local contractors to install IP-based water heater switches and thermostats in every home and business in Glasgow with electric water heating or HVAC. We asked for money to install IP-based switches and sensors all over our electric network to allow for fault location and automatic isolation and redirection of power flow. In summary, we asked for everything we could think of and then some more. The total estimated cost for the Glasgow portion of the TVPPA application comes to over $14 million. Will this actually happen? We don’t know. If it does happen how much might Glasgow EPB be expected to furnish? That is also unclear, but it might be as much as 30% of the cost! Are we willing to risk spending $4 million to get $14 million worth of technology for the people of Glasgow? That would be a simple question if the $4 million were available and if the ultimate TVA rate design were known. If those variables were filled in we could do a simple present worth analysis of the future savings made possible by the technology. However, that is not the case, and it will not be the case for any of the cities contemplating this matter.

So, we have applied for the funding and we are waiting to hear what the Department of Energy thinks about our ideas. If they approve, and if TVA somehow offers us a wholesale rate which makes the $4 million investment a wise one, we will start a new project in Glasgow that is the biggest thing we have done yet. It will be bigger than our decision to install a broadband network back in 1988. It will involve the installation of seven thousand new electric meters which will be able to communicate through the internet. It will involve us convincing you to allow local contractors to install internet compatible thermostats and water heater switches. It may involve the opportunity for us to partner with local vendors to offer new internet compatible appliances like water heaters and refrigerators. It may involve us working with local HVAC vendors to offer advanced HVAC systems that make ice during off peak hours and then use that ice to cool homes and businesses during the peak hours.

We will talk about all of this, and more, in Part 3 of this series.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Another World - Part 1 of 3

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing. - Arundhati Roy

That quote is far more than a couple of elegant sentences – it beautifully expresses an undeniable truth; the economic and changing climate situations we find ourselves in are not temporary. Rather, they represent seismic shifts in the way we are going to live out the rest of our lives. Another world is coming, and Glasgow can be among the first to embrace it, or, we can attempt to make the past last a few more years and miss the opportunity. I sure hope we will choose the former.

While tidal changes in the way we live are about to inundate us, the particular subject of this series of posts is electric power and the way it is produced, marketed, priced, and consumed. For way too long, we have sold electric power as if there is an infinite supply available (there is not) and we have priced it as though it costs the same to make it throughout the day (it does not). These confusing signals have been sent to you by your friendly local and regional electric power utilities, and we should be ashamed of ourselves.

After thirty five years in this business there is one thing I know – almost no one really understands what a kilowatt hour (kWh) is, nor do they know what one costs. Obviously, this is a real problem when it comes to the discussion about changing the way folks purchase and use them! A kWh is a volume of energy equivalent to using 1000 watts for one hour. Think of a kWh as a measure of volume much like a gallon of gasoline. In Glasgow, a homeowner presently pays a bit over eight cents for each kWh consumed, no matter what time of day it is consumed, and therein lies the major problem.

On an average summer day in Glasgow (and just about any of the ten thousand cities across our country), relatively little electric power is consumed for sixteen hours per day. However, between noon and 8:00 p.m., nearly everyone is using a large amount of power. We call those hours “peak” energy hours, and that is when all manner of expensive and carbon dioxide producing resources are called upon to meet the peak demand. KWh used during those hours should not be priced the same as the other sixteen hours, but that is exactly what we have been doing for many decades.

When gasoline demand goes up, we expect the price at the pump to rise. When a popular event lands in a particular city, we expect the price of motel rooms to jump. We are not surprised that it is more expensive to fly to Hawaii than it is to fly to Atlanta. Front row seats at a basketball game are more expensive than seats in the nosebleed section. So why have we not priced electric power the same way? Well, one reason is that it is more complicated to meter and bill, and most electric utilities have had a long held affinity for doing things simply. Another reason is that you, the customer, also have a warm feeling for simplicity and have given us signals for years that you would rather just pay a simple “all you can eat” rate instead of one which is different depending on the time of day, and we have obliged. As a result, those that use energy wisely and try to avoid on-peak usage are paying higher rates to subsidize the habits of others who make major contributions to the peak demand in the afternoons.

Over the last several decades our power supplier, TVA, has also committed a lot of sins by designing a wholesale electric rate that does not differentiate between efficient use and inefficient use. At the same time, our species has continued to develop residential areas farther and farther from the centers of towns. We have called this growth and we have been quite certain that all growth is good. As a result, we have converted productive farmland into inefficient suburbs and the utilities have encouraged that by charging the same rate per kWh for energy delivered out into the boondocks as they charge for the high density areas in towns. This is more subsidy where the homes packed in at fifty per mile of power line pay more so folks can enjoy cheap power out where there are three homes per mile of line. We created this mess through inattention to the issues and a conviction that all growth is good and that everyone should help finance that growth. Man, have we been stupid or what?

Our past sins are now being illuminated in a variety of ways. All-you-can-eat pricing for electric power resulted in towering peak demands that have required the construction of ever more peak power generation plants. More power plants resulted in increasing amounts of carbon dioxide (and mercury and other poisons) being pumped into our air and water (Wendell Berry, noted Kentucky author and poet, calls this “pissing in our own cistern”). Those pollutants have contributed greatly to changing our climate, which, in turn, is requiring even more generation plants to be built to keep us “comfortably numb” in an increasingly hostile climate. The present economic collapse is the icing on this cake of woe. Suddenly those who are paying more for energy to provide lower cost power for those who use energy inefficiently are demanding an end to that practice.

All of these planets are lining up to create a new world where electric power, like so many other commodities, is priced at the actual cost of production, including all of the environmental damage costs, fuel costs, delivery costs, and maintenance costs (another subsidy comes when folks with no trees on their property pay the massive costs involved with trimming and removing trees around power lines in the yards of their neighbors). A new world is coming and it is not coming quietly. Stay tuned to this blog for parts two and three of this series.
Friday, July 17, 2009

GE Appliances to use Infotricity

Tired of me always talking about infotricity and the coming of the "smart grid?" How about a break from my explanations in the form of the same kind of information from GE? This link takes you to a very good article about the new appliances GE is developing to be manufactured just up the road from us in Louisville. If we play our cards right, perhaps we could entice them to do a major demonstration of this technology right here in Glasgow. As you know, we are certainly ready for it! Better still, if we can show how well these appliances would work with our infotricity infrastructure, maybe we could even convince them to manufacture some of the parts for the new appliances here. It could work.
Monday, July 6, 2009

Just Say No

Three thousand miles away from the place where the Michael Jackson memorial is taking place, the United States Senate is about to take up a matter which is getting no attention compared to the death of the aforementioned pop icon – that of deciding if the United States is ready to get serious about our climate and our energy supply. Yes, unimaginable as that sounds, the future of our ability to live on this planet is taking a back seat to news about the life and death of one guy who could sing and dance quite well.

If you have heard anything about the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, you may know it as the “cap and trade” bill which was narrowly passed a couple of weeks ago by the U.S. House of Representatives. The “cap and trade” description comes from the original intent of the bill, which sought to place a cap on the amount of carbon dioxide being dumped into our air by various sources (mainly electric power generation plants fueled by coal or natural gas), and allow facilities which do a good job of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide they emit to trade, or sell, their good deeds to others who would rather just purchase the clean air credits from others instead of investing money and time into doing good deeds themselves. Amazingly, in a world being rocked by the unfettered trading of mysterious financial instruments, the Obama administration thinks it makes sense to introduce another set of vague and confusing instruments which can be traded and exploited by the unscrupulous corporations that brought us our present economy. Really, you can’t make this stuff up.

A far superior approach would be to simply say no to any additional fossil fueled generation. Congress could simply institute the “cap” portion of the bill. They could say that the amount of greenhouse gases being injected in the atmosphere can never go above the amount that will be released in 2009, period. That is what is actually needed, combined with requirements to reduce the emissions over time, because only a bold move like this will shake the electric power industry into adopting technology which will allow us all to totally change the way we purchase power. Further, if our congress cannot bring themselves to make such a timely and wise decision, much of the same good could be done if the public service commissions in each state would simply take the position that no new fossil fuel fired electric generation plants will be licensed. Another great option would be for TVA, which was designed to the be leader of public power thinking in the United States, to include the pledge to build no new fossil fuel generation, nor purchase power from fossil fuel generators, in the Integrated Resource Plan it is developing right now. Sadly, none of these brave ideas seem likely to happen. Kentucky’s Senators McConnell and Bunning will likely lead the fight to defeat this bill in the Senate, even though doing so will only create more problems for our children and grandchildren. State public service commissions seem powerless to suggest anything not favored by the utilities that they supposedly regulate, and the distributors of TVA power (except this one and perhaps a very few others), lead by their trade association TVPPA, are actively trying to defeat the bill and the idea of limiting the growth of fossil fuel generation -- in fact, they are angling to install their own natural gas fired generation!

The opposition to the bill, and these ideas, comes from those who always seem to want to protect the status quo. The folks who mine and sell coal want things to stay just the same as they are, as do most folks who are making plenty of money with the present situation. They are trying to win you over to their way of thinking by scaring you with predictions of tripled or quadrupled electric bills. As usual, the rich are trying to stay rich by scaring the rest of us with misinformation and ghost stories. If you are interested in just how things really are in the areas where coal is mined, take a look at this article published recently by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. The opponents of this bill say that we cannot afford the increased cost of electric power. They are fully prepared to continue damaging the environment in pursuit of “cheap” electricity. The truth is that the real cost of electricity, the way we produce it today, is much higher than what you think it is when you get your bill each month because the damage we are doing to our air and water and climate must be added to what your bill depicts.

Examples of this additional cost are everywhere. One that is really easy to see is the upcoming cost we will be paying for TVA’s recent coal ash spill at the Kingston Plant near Knoxville, TN. The burning of coal and the scrubbing of the emissions from coal fired plants produces unbelievable volumes of residues, which are possibly toxic, from the boilers and smokestacks. That residue is presently stored in man-made lakes, largely unlined, where the ash builds up, leaches into the ground water, or possibly, as in Kingston’s case, breaks through the boundary of the storage facilities and inundates the entire region and nearby rivers. This is not some distant problem that locals need not worry about. These facilities are all around us. Last week we even visited a vast coal ash lake at Paradise Fossil Plant just over an hour from here in Muhlenburg County. It looked like a vast inland sea of muck which was separated from the Green River by about a mile. The future cost of continuing to pursue cheap electricity through the burning of coal is being stored up in these vast lakes, and those costs will be released sooner or later. Cheap electric power from coal and natural gas is an illusion, much like cheap food using commodity subsidized corn is also an illusion. Cheap food loaded with corn derived chemicals like high fructose corn syrup is not cheap either because the additional costs of that food will be realized at the physicians offices, the hospitals, and the pharmacies. The cost of fossil fuel derived electric power is just as high. It is time for us to awaken from our slumber and end this damage that we have been vesting upon our children for many decades. It is time we awaken Senator Bunning and McConnell as well. The Senate should pass this bill as did the House of Representatives.

Just what would happen if we capped electric power generated by fossil fuels at 2009 levels? It is very likely that something wonderful would happen. If all generation utilities were told they were running their last fossil fuel plants and that those plants would be forced to close by a date certain there would be a renaissance in thinking about how to generate electricity. That renaissance would most likely result in the adoption of Electric Power Version 2.0 as discussed at this link recently on this very blog. Existing power plant capacity which is wasted each day would suddenly be mined and utilized. Broadband plant and fiber optic cables, necessary to carry the information component of infotricity, would be built to the farthest reaches of existing electric power networks. Millions of new thermostats, water heaters, and appliances capable of utilizing infotricity would be built and installed, employing hundreds of thousands of workers to produce and install the plant and the devices. Millions of existing buildings would be retrofitted with energy saving and infotricity utilizing capacity, employing additional workers still.

At the same time, investment in antiquated fossil fuel generation would cease and that amount of money would instead be spent on the construction of clean, renewable energy facilities. Emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere would begin to fall. The destruction of mountains and streams in Kentucky and West Virginia, in the pursuit of cheap coal would cease, and we would be positioning ourselves to give the generations to come the same sort of world that we inherited from our parents and grandparents. Would that be so bad? Now, let’s sit back and watch our Senators decide whether to chase the ghost of a by gone era or to cast their lot for a new world full of promise for us all. Hopefully we will be able to get new about this vote squeezed in some where between Michael's memorial and Dancing With the Stars.
Monday, June 15, 2009

A Toast to Bonnie Goodman

Every person in our community, who experiences the force of love, felt a quake in that force on Sunday as Bonnie Goodman left us. Bonnie and Jack Goodman were married for 67 years and had a bond so strong that no one knows what might happen to our world now that one of them is gone. If the planets suddenly stop orbiting as they always have, no one should be surprised.

My personal knowledge of Bonnie and Jack goes back well over 40 years. Growing up in the First Christian Church and knowing them both as Sunday School teachers and all around examples of how folks could actually live out the teachings of the sermon on the mount, I came to think of Bonnie and Jack as the text book definition of a perfect marriage and infinite love . . . and I was right about that.

After my formal education and my return to Glasgow, I got to experience Jack as a member of the Board of Directors of the EPB and that opened the door to a whole new understanding of the Bonnie and Jack binary star system. Each and every interaction with them left me ashamed of the vast divide between my ability to win friends and influence people when compared to them. They created their own gravity and exported kindness as a perpetual motion machine.

Just a few years ago we planned a train trip which included a stop in Glacier National Park. While I had no intention of becoming a tour guide, Bonnie and Jack heard about the trip and made their own plans to ride along. That was fine with me. We had reservations to stay for a couple of nights at Glacier Park Lodge, a famously large and rustic old lodge built of massive Douglas Fir trunks which tower over forty feet high. The lobby is huge and bustling with travelers from all over the world who have come to see the pristine Montana wilderness and the last of North America’s glaciers. After we unloaded our bags and got comfortable in the lobby, Bonnie exclaimed, “The only way to make this better would be to add a little music,” whereupon she walked up to a massive grand piano, sat down, and commenced to play. Everyone in the lobby stopped what they were doing and tuned in to the vibe being created by Bonnie. Folks from different states, countries, and continents were suddenly entranced by the combined beauty of the mountains, the lodge, and the love pouring out of Bonnie’s fingers through the piano keys. After a few songs, Bonnie excused herself from the keyboard and started dancing with Jack to reverberations of the music she had created moments before. Strangers wept.

The next day we were touring the park in the famous old buses. The mountains, glaciers, streams, waterfalls, and the sky combine at Glacier National Park in a way that makes the spirit soar as in no other place on earth. Toward the end of the day the stars began to come out to add even more glory to the sights we were beholding. But, as the trip wound down and the guides asked the crowd for questions, a young couple in behind me simply asked the guide “How soon will we be back at the lodge?” “We want to be there when that lady from Kentucky starts playing the piano!” I looked out at the visual pallette of the sky and the mountains and smiled in complete understanding of how being around Bonnie trumped seeing the last of North America’s glaciers under a billion stars. After all, there are lots of mountains and stars, but only one Bonnie and Jack.

Bonnie’s passing creates a void that will be felt far beyond the confines of our small community, just as the love they generated created a wake that trailed her and Jack always. Let’s hope those waves never dissipate.
Thursday, May 14, 2009

Trees . . . the Final Frontier

Yes fair readers, it is time for another tree talk and, in an attempt to make it interesting and new, let’s talk about the “prime directive” of the fictional crew of the Enterprise (hey, the new Star Trek Movie is out). You will recall that the fictional crew was sent out on a mission to locate and document new worlds and civilizations, but their “prime directive” (their core orders from central command) forbade them from influencing the development of life on those worlds by telling them about things like outer space, intergalactic travel, Viagra, or iPods. You can read more about that by clicking here. Like the crew of the Enterprise, the crew of the EPB also has a prime directive, and ours is neither fictional nor romantic. Our prime directive is to provide essential services, like electric power and broadband, to Glasgow and make them as reliable as possible and as inexpensive as possible. Our prime directive, and trees located near our lines, are on a collision course, and the trees are going to be transformed as a result.

Anyone who knows the EPB team knows that we really hate to do tree trimming. Many of us, like me, are actually nearly militant environmentalists (that’s me riding my bicycle around town to reduce my carbon footprint) and wish there were more trees to capture more CO2 out of the atmosphere and give off more O2. But, nature’s laws were enacted long before any of us were born, and those laws dictate that trees conduct electricity and if they touch a power line, that power line is going to stop delivering power to our customer’s homes and that violates our prime directive mentioned above. So, trim we must.

This year our trimming methods are changing. For decades we have paid a steadily increasing amount of money to contractors to accomplish our line clearing work. Over that time we noticed that our annual cost for line clearing was rapidly increasing, yet our numbers of power outages caused by trees were not declining at all. Something was wrong with this picture, and we think we have figured it out. You see, tree trimming contractors make money by trimming trees. While utilizing modern directional trimming practices (more about that by clicking here) can yield reduced tree trimming costs, over time, and increased electric system reliability, tree trimming contractors really resist trimming this way because it reduces the likelihood of that tree needing to be trimmed again. Rather, they like to make dozens of cuts that all result in many new branch shoots emerging so that next time the tree needs to be trimmed even more. On and on it goes with the need for line clearing steadily increasing along with the cost and happiness of the tree trimming contractor. We plan on breaking that cycle.

Trimming trees directionally is best for the tree and the EPB and the customers. Since we have had little success forcing our contractors to trim this way, we have a new idea . . . we are going to have our own team do this year’s trimming. One thing is certain, our folks do not profit from trimming trees (in fact they hate it!), so it would seem to follow that they will use aggressive directional trimming methods to clear our lines such that they will remain clear for many years. That will save us money and also meet the second part of our prime directive – keeping our services inexpensive.

As this year’s work unfolds we will be doing more than ever to keep you informed of where we are and when we will be in your yard. We will do this by posting information on the crawl at the bottom of The Weather Channel on our cable system. We will also post this information on our web page. Finally, we will be sending out regular updates on our activities on Twitter which is discussed in great detail elsewhere on this blog. There should be no one who is not informed about our plans and tree trimming activity so long as they are willing to read from one of these three media sources. We could mind-meld with our customers but we have no Vulcans on the team!

So, we are starting very soon in Norris Court and along South Green Street. If you live in that area, we will be there soon. Other neighborhoods in that part of town will follow throughout the summer and fall. The trees will not be prettier as a result of our visit, but your electric power and broadband services will be more reliable and the cost of delivering them will be reduced. The prime objective of the EPB will be met!
Monday, May 11, 2009

Bounty of the Barrens Market -- More than a Market

Please forgive me while we talk for a minute about something that is not directly related to the EPB – Sustainable Glasgow and the upcoming Bounty of the Barrens Market currently being planned by Sustainable Glasgow. One of our missions at the EPB has always been to act as a catalyst for economic development and the creation of a steadily improving lifestyle and standard of living in our community. We feel, with all our heart, that the mission of Sustainable Glasgow is well in line with our mission and we really hope you will prove our efforts worthwhile by supporting the market when it opens later this month on Saturday, May 30. This is an exciting time for all the volunteers and vendors involved. One thing is certain: we are not going to be short on area farmers who want to sell food to area eaters!

We are amazed that the market concept we introduced in January has already attracted more than twenty-five vendors who plan to spend their Saturday mornings in the parking lot behind BB&T Bank (which has ever so graciously provided a place for the community to come together) throughout the summer. They will bring the fresh produce that they have lovingly and laboriously planned, planted, tended, and harvested for us.

Now our focus turns toward convincing you, the local eater, to vote for the success of these local farmers by spending your food dollars with them rather than one of the big-box food retailers (you know who). Buckets of money leave our community through these corporate portals.

A visit to the Bounty of the Barrens Market will be nothing like a trip to any conventional grocery store. There will be music by local musicians and cooking demonstrations by local chefs. There will be cheese from Kenny’s Country Cheese and fruits from Jackson’s Orchard and locally grown and harvested meats, eggs, and vegetables from dozens of other residents of our region, the Barrens. But the market will be even more than a festive place to purchase fresh and healthy foods – it is a first step toward a diversified and truly sustainable local economy.

Sustainable Glasgow, Inc. has more ideas and plans. It is our intention to revitalize our local economy and reinvent our community, transforming a good community into a great place that does not have to convince folks to visit us or locate here - a place that creates its own gravity by providing a desirable lifestyle which a sustainable economy creates. The Bounty of the Barrens Market will connect grower and consumer and act as our opening gambit in the process of community reconciliation which, we hope, will ultimately lead us back to a connection with each other and our land.

We want the market to act as a community convener, a community builder and a preserver and restorer of relationships. So, please make plans to come and commune with your neighbors each Saturday throughout the summer; but please do not think of the market as simplistic, for it certainly is not. In my day job we deal with very complicated technology and often feel that we are providing Glasgow with products which are unparalleled in our republic, but deep down we know that our technology is stone-age compared to the products you will find at the market. Perhaps Paul Hawken put it all into perspective when he concluded: “We humans have yet to create anything that is as complex and well-designed as the interactions of the microorganisms in a cubic foot of rich soil.” Come see us at the Bounty of the Barrens Market and see what the natural technology of our region has wrought.
Thursday, April 30, 2009

All We Are Say-ing, Is Give Twitter a Chance...

This just in! Click on this link for a great New York Times primer on using Twitter!

It has now been about six months since we first implored everyone in Glasgow to follow the EPB on Twitter. Since then, it has become nearly impossible to watch any newscast, or just about anything for that matter, where Twitter is not mentioned. Still, we are not getting the sort of participation that we need in order for the people of Glasgow to really benefit from this technology. So, this post will be sort of a repeat of our earlier post in the hope that you are ready to respond this time. We are using Twitter, and we think it might be a real breakthrough in our ability to keep our customers posted on what is going on -- right now!

Since we provide so many services which are essential to life and business in Glasgow, there are often messages that we need to get to you immediately. Just a couple of days ago a TVA switching problem caused the whole city to go dark in the middle of the afternoon of a beautiful spring day. Within seconds, our telephone system was totally overwhelmed with calls. Mostly, people just wanted to make sure we knew of the outage and they wanted to find out what was going on. For the folks who are already following us on Twitter, they already knew the answers to both of these questions. If you are reading this online, then you too have the power and the knowledge required to participate in this "insider information." To participate in getting the very latest real-time information, just click on this link or look on the left side of this blog at the new area entitled "Twitter Updates" and click on the link at the bottom of the updates that says "Follow the EPB on Twitter." Once there, follow the instructions to sign up for an account and then click on the "Follow" button to follow GlasgowEPB on Twitter. Then each time you come back to and sign in, you will see the updates from us! Also, if you have a cell phone (who doesn't?) and if it can receive text messages, enter that information when you are signing up for your Twitter account and you will get the EPB updates instantly when we post them (for some strange reason, this is still not working with Bluegrass Cellular phones, but they promise they are working on it!). Even if you were sitting in the dark after a power outage, you would get the updates from us via your cell phone. We think that feature has tremendous possibilities.

Twitter is the perfect way for one person, or company, to immediately speak to thousands of friends or customers. If all of our customers were receiving our Twitter updates, we could broadcast simple instructions via Twitter that would save everyone the trouble of calling in and having us give them reports and instructions one at a time. Obviously this would really ease everyone's minds during widespread power, internet, or cable television outages. Once we realize that a group of several hundred homes are off we could Twitter the information out to all, and, even if you were sitting in the dark without the ability to check Twitter or this blog for information, you could get the information via text message to your cell phone! Further, there are a lot of other Glasgow-centric possibilities for Twitter. Already WCLU uses Twitter to send out regular updates on local news. WBKO and Bowling Green Daily News do the same. If we are lucky, we might also convince our local 911 and other emergency services to start sending out Twitter updates to tell us about emergency situations or to answer the enduring question of life in Glasgow . . . what are all those sirens about and where are they going? The more of us that use Twitter, the more likely we will be able to influence other local agencies to use it as well and keep us better informed.

Of course, it will take a while for us to get thousands of customers signed up for Twitter and receiving these updates, but, let's start this morning and see how fast we can go! Twitter is free and it dramatically increases the value of the computer, internet service and cell phone service that you already pay for. If you need help signing up and setting up your Twitter account, please call or stop by our office. Together we can become a raging community of Tweeters!
Monday, April 27, 2009

The Dilemma Over Coal and Electric Power

If you did not catch this exhaustive report on Sixty Minutes last night, I strongly suggest that you watch and read it by clicking here. This is not an issue that only affects folks outside of Glasgow. It will affect us all very directly. In fact, it might hit us sooner than the rest of the country because our power supplier, TVA, is already spending over a million dollars a day trying to clean up the massive spill of coal ash that occurred just before Christmas 2008. The money for that cleanup will soon find its way to our electric bills in Glasgow.

After reading and viewing this information, how about posting your comments and thoughts about it here on our blog?
Thursday, April 2, 2009

While You Were Sleeping

Last night, when you were not really looking or expecting it, we added some new channels for all of our cable customers who subscribe to our digital and HD tiers. In case you haven't yet noticed them, check out channel 145 - Chiller. As the name implies, you can read more about the channel on their website by clicking here. Basically, it all horror movies. I won't be watching that, but it is there for you!

Next, watch channel 195 for WHAS 24hour weather. While WHAS is presently still working to get this on the air, it will be, as the name implies, a 24 hour a day radar and weather summary of our region from Louisville's WHAS team.

Channel 524 on our HD tier is now USA-HD. USA Channel is one of the most popular on television. Now you can watch it in HD. Finally, channel 539 is now Sci-Fi-HD. All of your favorite SciFi shows and movies coming to you in HD!

Also, QVC has moved to Ch. 20 and Bravo has moved to Ch. 26.

You just never know what we are working on while you are sleeping! Enjoy...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Of the Internet and Glasgow

Way back in 1991 we discovered that our new broadband network was capable of being used as a local area network (LAN). That means we were able to establish communications between a few folks that already had home computers and the new file servers and educational software that the Glasgow schools had bought. It was very cool and novel. The technology we were using meant that we had to actually crack open the computers and install a communications card manufactured by IBM that was intended for connecting computers in a large building. Once we discovered that they would work across our network connecting thousands of buildings, things really started to happen.

In those early days one of the coolest things we could demonstrate was the ability to access Encyclopedia Britannica which Glasgow Board of Education had purchased and installed on a file server in one of their schools. Thinking back on it now, it seems pretty lame, but in 1991 it was a big deal. That demonstration drew a lot of nationwide attention. A lot of that attention came from the telecommunications giant (now deceased) MCI. After a few years of visits to Glasgow and discussions about why a city might decide to build its own broadband network, we got a very important phone call from an MCI executive named Vinton Cerf. He asked me to meet him for lunch in Reston, VA. During that lunch he asked if Glasgow had considered connecting its broadband network to the internet. I admitted that we had, but that we had no idea how to accomplish that. He offered to help us and, within a few weeks, MCI established the first connection between the internet and Glasgow’s broadband network. That was late 1994 and everything since then has been a bit of a blur.

That first connection was a T1 circuit. T1 is telecommunications jargon for a 1.5 megabit per second (Mbps) pathway between Glasgow and the internet. Today such a circuit would be suitable only for a handful of medium sized businesses, but from the beginning in 1994 through about 1996, one T1 circuit carried all of Glasgow’s internet traffic. If the internet is represented as the interstate highway system, the T1 circuit would be similar to a gravel driveway, but it was our only connection to the interstate. Glasgow has always suffered some from its geography. I-65 passed us by and so did the main line of the railroad, and, to a large extent, the internet passed us by as well. Even though today our connections to the internet are big and getting much bigger, we still are not a major node on the world wide web, and that is at the center of most of the internet service interruptions we sometimes experience here in Glasgow.

While our initial gravel driveway connection to the world has now grown from 1.5 Mbps to 150 Mbps (perhaps now the equivalent of a pretty wide two lane road with occasional passing lanes included), we still have issues with that road. For example, we had a problem with that road just Friday past. Continuing on the road metaphor, Glasgow EPB owns the broadband roads all over Glasgow and parts of Barren County, but our “interchange” with the nationwide interstate network is inside our network operations center right at our offices. There, Windstream and AT&T take ownership of the highway and transport all of our traffic to a massive toll booth in Louisville. There, all of our traffic encounters an AT&T router which examines each piece of email, gaming, news, pictures, or anything else you think of as internet traffic. That router then decides if the traffic is allowed to pass and gives it directions on where to go. The router is sort of like the gatekeeper guy in the Emerald City when Dorothy and the scarecrow and others (Toto too!) knocked on the door and asked for an audience with the Wizard. The router decides who gets to come in and who has to stay outside where that really spooky witch is cavorting about. Well, on Friday the router/gatekeeper guy got new orders from the Wizard (AT&T) that no one from Glasgow was allowed in. That is why you were unable to utilize your internet connection from about 2:30 p.m. until about 7:00 p.m. that day. Within an hour we were certain that the problem was with the instructions AT&T had given the router, but, since we neither own, nor control, AT&T, we simply had to call and beg and plead for several hours while they took their own sweet time sending new orders to the router.

Obviously, we don’t like being treated this way and we are constantly striving to provide redundancy and greater capacity on our local “roads” as well as our roadways connecting Glasgow to the world. We also want to free ourselves from the tyranny which exists when we allow one gatekeeper (AT&T) to control all of our access to the world. What we really need is multiple roads leading out of Glasgow which lead to multiple gatekeepers so that one set of bad instructions cannot render us unable to communicate with the world. For that matter, we really need the same sort of architecture for electric power as well. It might surprise you, but Glasgow has only one source of electricity today just like we have only one internet roadway to the world. Luckily, our electric power gateway, operated by TVA, is a bit more sorted out and less likely to get bad instructions than the guy operating the door at AT&T. Of course we would really like to have redundant feeds for both electric power and internet connectivity, and, that is precisely what we are working on. The only real problem with providing this redundancy is that it is expensive, and folks in Glasgow have grown accustomed to high speed, high reliability, and low cost. . .three things that are very difficult to arrange at the same time. Still, we are trying to accomplish them all.

Within the next month, we will be completing our own fiber optic circuit to Bowling Green and, in turn, to an AT&T router which is in Bowling Green. This will finally allow us nearly infinite capacity to the internet. It will be like having a new twenty lane connector from I-65 directly to the Bypass in Glasgow. As we move traffic off the old highway and onto this new one, it is possible that you may see some service interruptions. The only way I know to explain this is to compare it to construction on the interstate. All of those orange barrels and lower speed limits are frustrating during construction, but after it is over, man, the road is sooo nice! But still, initially our new road will still terminate at only one big AT&T router, so the possibility of bad instructions or other AT&T issues will still be a problem, but we have a plan for that as well.

Other major internet gateways also exist in Bowling Green, and we are working to establish redundant connections to them. Also, other cities like Hopkinsville, and Murray are building similar new roads to connect themselves to neighboring cities and we are working with them to interconnect our fiber to their’s. As that develops, we will eventually have fiber routes all the way to Nashville, and that will open the door for us to interconnect with many other competitive major internet gateways. So, the time is coming when one provider will not be able to totally cripple our internet access, but it is not coming tomorrow. There is work to do and money to be spent before we arrive in internet nirvana.

Peering a bit further over the horizon, it is possible to imagine a time when the interconnected cities might band together to establish themselves as a major internet gatekeeper on our own! If we are successful in bring that about, we may see the major internet content providers like Google, Yahoo, CNN, and others actually seek to locate some of their servers and connections on our fiber backbone. At the same time, if our infotricity idea takes hold, Glasgow might become the provider for advanced electric power metering services for all of the cities connected via the fiber backbone. All of these thing may lead to Glasgow having the most robust internet speeds and capacities in North America. All of these things are possible, but not guaranteed. Still, it is our intention to keep working on our roads and improving their capacity. This work will continue to provide benefits for you, and the occasional frustration. The former should far outweigh the latter, but don’t expect perfection. While no one works harder than we do to deliver the very best internet service possible, we are still human and we do sometimes make mistakes.