I'm lucky. While Google didn't bring 1-gigabit internet to Asheville, NC, my local ISP, Charter-Spectrum, guarantees me 100Mbps speeds but I usually see even faster speeds: 125Mbps. That's great. But, off to the West, in Chattanooga Tenn., the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga (EPB), a publicly owned utility, is bringing 10-gigabit internet to its customers.
This builds on EPB's earlier success. The EPB brought gigabit internet to the public in 2012. Google is bringing gigabit internet to more places, but EPB shows that you don't need an ISP or major corporate backing to bring truly high-speed broadband to the last mile.
More than 150 communities are building broadband their own way. EPB is leading the charge.
What EPB has done is to offer the world's first 10-gigabit internet service across a large community-wide territory. Unlike point-to-point commercial installations, which have been possible for some time, EPB's 10 gig service is now available for access by every home and business in a 600 square mile area through Alcatel-Lucent's TWDM-PON broadband technology.
The 10 gig residential service is available everywhere in EPB's service area for $299 per month with free installation, no contracts and no cancellation fees. My feelings about this? "Shut up and take my money!"
EPB is also launching 5 gig and 10 gig Internet products for small businesses as well as 3 gig, 5 gig and 10 gig "Professional" products for larger enterprises. These internet services are available at varying price points.
"Chattanooga's 10 gig fiber optic network is a world-class platform for innovation," said Harold DePriest, EPB's president and CEO. "In recent years, the need for faster internet speeds has increased rapidly." Companies need to upload and download large files including ventures involved in 3D printing, film production, gaming, medical image diagnostics, software development, big data, and so on.
The result? "Chattanooga is a city ready to compete in the 21st Century innovation economy," said Chattanooga mayor Andy Berke. "The 1 gigabit service has already played a pivotal role in transforming our city, attracting new businesses and providing our residents with affordable high-speed connectivity. The 10 gig offering will continue to grow wages, diversify our local economy and propel Chattanooga as a center for technology and invention."
This isn't just small city boosterism. Chattanooga's fiber optic network has produced tangible results. A study recently released by University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Finance professor Bento Lobo shows "the Gig Network" helped the Chattanooga area generate at least 2,800 new jobs and at least $865.3 million in economic and social benefits.
While less exciting, the study also found the EPB smart power grid, which is the cornerstone application of the utility's community-wide fiber optic network, has allowed customers to avoid an estimated 124.7 million minutes of electric service interruptions by automatically re-routing power (often in less than a second) to prevent an outage or dramatically reduce outage duration.
What EPB is showing is that ultra-high, last-mile broadband has a real and dramatic effect on both the corporate and community. The major ISPs, which have been slow to bring even 25+ Megabit per second to users, should take note. With these kind of real-world economic advantages, companies and customers will not continue to put up with slow to upgrade, high-priced internet services.