Chattanooga now has two high-speed Internet options

Last month Chattanooga, Tenn., Mayor Andy Berke announced that the city will offer discounted high-speed Internet to low-income families.

The Electric Power Board of Chattanooga (EPB), an independent city-owned agency, will offer 100-megabit/sec service to low income households for $26.99 per month, a discount from the standard rate of $57.99. The Netbridge Student Discount program gives any family with a child who is eligible for a free or reduced-price lunch the discounted Internet access.

The discounted rate is what it costs to operate the service, according to EPB analysis. State regulations prohibit the agency from giving away the service, the Times Free Press reported.

“We can’t leave behind Chattanoogans who simply want to worship together, learn together or celebrate together and simply need an Internet hookup to help them do so,” Berke said.

Meanwhile, Comcast announced it is rolling out 2-gigbit/sec broadband service in Chattanooga beginning in June. The new service will be the “fastest Internet available to residential customers in Chattanooga," said Doug Guthrie, senior vice president of Comcast Cable’s South Region. The company has similar programs in Atlanta, Florida and California, and said it plans to roll out the service to 18 million homes by the end of 2015.

Comcast also offers service to low-income families at just $10 per month, but at much slower download speeds than EPB’s -- 5 megabit/sec, according to the nonprofit Next City. Pricing on Comcast’s new high-speed Internet has not yet been announced.

Chattanooga’s network started in 2008 as an effort to build a smart grid that could reroute power during outages and also carry Internet traffic.  After receiving $111 million in funding from the Department of Energy, the service was up and running by September 2009. Now EPB serves nearly 60,000 households, plus business partners.

And the service's benefits have not been limited to residents. A number of companies have relocated to Chattanooga to take advantage of the reliability provided by the smart grid and the fast Internet, city officials told CNN Money.

Chattanooga is one of many municipal governments with high-speed Internet projects. Last October Next Century Cities, a coalition of 32 cities trying to upgrade to gigabit service, officially launched. And municipal governments in many states are developing creative partnerships to bring  broadband and faster Internet access to citizens and businesses in their communities.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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