I love living in Nashville, Tennessee. But I can't help but be a little jealous of another city a few miles down the road: Chattanooga, Tennessee, which has implemented super-fast, publicly owned Internet via its Electric Power Board (EPB). The city offers 1 Gigabit-per-second Internet speed to every home and business throughout the community.
Chattanooga's EPB is installing a 100% "fiber to the premises" network. It's built to run America's first true "Smart Grid" and offer residential high speed Internet, video and telephone services, the network was also built to empower our community in new ways. Because bandwidth is no problem, Chattanooga's Fiber Optic network purportedly enables upload and download speeds 200 times faster than the current national average, and 10 times faster than the FCC's National Broadband Plan (and a decade ahead of schedule).
Internet speeds of 1000 Megabits per second, or 1 gigabit, cost just US$70 a month. A cheaper 100 Megabit plan costs $58 per month. However, even the slower plan is still light-years ahead of the average U.S. connection speed, which stood at 9.8 megabits per second in the third quarter of 2013, according to a study by Akamai Technologies.
Chattanooga's project started in 2008 with the goal of building a "smart" power grid for the city, capable of rerouting electricity on the fly to prevent outages in addition to carrying Internet traffic. "It just didn't look like the private sector was going to bring true, high-speed connectivity to this market," EPB spokeswoman Danna Bailey told CNN Money.
Chattanooga had to contend with lawsuits from Comcast and local cable operators as it worked to get the network going. However, aided by an $111 million stimulus grant from the Department of Energy, the service was up and running by September 2009. The EPB currently has around 5,000 business customers along with 57,540 households, which have access to "triple play" bundles of video, phone and Internet service just like they would from a private provider.
The city says major corporations, technology firms and call centers are using their fiber to build their business. Chattanooga — which has a population of over 167,000 — is centrally located between Atlanta, Georgia, Nashville, Tennessee, and Knoxville, Tennessee. I won't be moving to Chattanooga, but I sure hope "my" city of Nashville will learn from its example as an alternative to those frustrated with slow speeds and high costs from private broadband providers.