Affordable, dependable on-line connectivity = Economic Development

October 12, 2020

Broadband internet has become an integral part of our lives since its inception. As COVID-19 continues to increase the demand for access to reliable high-speed internet, it has become apparent that broadband access is now critical. A growing number of U.S. cities are looking at implementing city wide high-speed internet infrastructure. 

Chattanooga, Tennessee was the front runner in the race to make high-speed internet access a reality for its residents thanks to the city-owned Electric Power Board. Since the EPB implanted their Fiber-to-the-premise network, Chattanooga has become a tech hub and a magnet for all types of businesses looking for high-speed, affordable and dependable broadband access.

The view from Rock City, located on Lookout Mountain, in Chattanooga, TN.

In 2003, the EPB started a fiber-optic high-speed internet service for businesses and became competition for local cable companies and private ISPs. After a few years of providing telecom services, The EPB’s board of director’s announced a Fiber to the Home initiative. This initiative created jobs, improved the quality of service and made high-speed internet service available to every customer in their service area. Chattanooga city council members unanimously voted in favor of the initiative amidst widespread community support. 

In 2009 The EPB was awarded a federal stimulus grant from The Department of Energy, which enabled them to start building their Smart Grid system. By 2010 the EPB announced the arrival of incredibly fast Fi-Speed internet connections, available to all of their customers. They offer speeds up to 1000Mbps, the fastest internet available today. By 2011 the EPB had expanded its fiber-optic services to cover the suburban area of Haletown-increasing their service area to 600 square miles. 

EPB is able to offer much higher internet connection speeds at a lower cost than their privately-owned competition. Throughout the years they have increased the speed available to residential customers and lowered rates. They offer 100Mbps and 1 gig internet connections at different rates, but even the slower of the two options is faster than most internet connections available from private ISPs. By October of 2018 the EPB was servicing more than 100,000 residential customers and businesses. 

Jackie B. a mom of three living in the suburbs outside of Chattanooga says their EPB internet service is fast, reliable and affordable. “We very rarely have any issues with it and if we do, they are quick to come out and check our services. We use one of their routers also and they will replace it if we have any issues as well. We run a ton of devices off of it and have no issues with anything being slow.”

The fiber-optic advantage in Chattanooga continues to grow. In 2019, customers who subscribed to the 100Mbps service were upgraded to 300Mbps at no additional cost, and the rate for the 1Gig service was reduced. With the onset of the pandemic, the EPB deployed hot-spot internet technology to 27 locations to help provide internet access to those in need. 

Other cities have followed suit, and many more are looking at the advantages of offering city-wide high-speed internet. 

The economic impact of EPB’s fiber network have been profound. Chattanooga, once known as a titan of industry, fell on hard times in the 80’s and 90’s, but thanks to its “build-it-and-they-will-come” attitude, the city has become a center of innovation, attracting a growing base of startup companies as well as large corporations to locate where dependable high-speed connectivity is plentiful and affordable.

Thanks to their Gbps service, the city managed a large coup in 2011 when Volkswagen announced it would locate an auto assembly plant there which now employs approximately 4000 local residents in its 1400-acre facility. Amazon.com also established facilities in Chattanooga and it has become the home for startup incubators which foster technology startups. The total economic impact of the city’s decision to build the network is well in excess of $1 billion.

Kinetx Prime salutes the innovative approach Chattanooga took in reviving its economic activity and improving the quality of life of its citizens by enabling its digital economy through affordable access to the Internet.

Related Links: 

https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/9/10/21426810/internet-access-covid-19-chattanooga-municipal-broadband-fcc

https://money.cnn.com/2014/05/20/technology/innovation/chattanooga-internet/

https://epb.com/about-epb/our-history