Chattanooga raises the bar on broadband development

Region's 1 gigabit/sec optical network laps the field in U.S.

Chattanooga is gaining fame for something other than an old Glenn Miller song. The south-central Tennessee city has taken the lead — by a wide margin — in broadband development.

As of Sept. 13, every home and business on Chattanooga’s fiber-optic network had access to a 1 gigabit/sec Internet connection. That’s about 200 times faster than the average U.S. broadband speed and 10 times what the National Broadband Plan aims to achieve during the next 10 years. Worldwide, only Hong Kong and a few other cutting-edge cities can match it.

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The optical fiber network, built with Alcatel-Lucent’s gigabit passive optical network technology, reaches 100,000 homes and businesses. By year’s end, EPB Fiber Optics, Chattanooga’s community-owned fiber-optics utility, expects to raise that number to 170,000 across a 600-square-mile area in the city and surrounding region.

Chattanooga’s service costs $350 a month, so it’s not likely to attract your average Web user, but businesses, large organizations and the most ardent of online gamers could jump on board.

The city’s network also puts it ahead of the smart-grid game. The grid, which EBP said it has been working on for more than a decade — helped by a $111 million economic stimulus grant from the Energy Department — will run on the network, providing fast two-way communications for every meter on the grid.

National projects such as the broadband plan and smart grid can’t be expected to move as fast as EBP has. But Chattanooga has raised the bar, and given every other region something to shoot for.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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