What's the Gig Deal with Chattanooga's Internet?
It’s not unusual to hear visitors say things like “Wow!” and “That’s fast!” when they use our community-wide internet. But Chattanooga and fast internet speeds are synonymous, so fast that it’s earned us the nickname of “Gig City.”
In 2022, leaders announced those speeds would increase to a whopping 25-gigabits per second. And that our Chattanooga Convention Center would be the first customer.
But how did we get here? And what does it all mean?
Well, it all starts with the mission of EPB, our local municipal electric utility, and their vision for a 100% fiber optic internet service.
Chattanooga’s high-speed internet story began with making its electric grid more dependable. In 2008, EPB began to deploy a community-wide fiber optic network that would serve as the communications backbone for Chattanooga’s Smart Grid, a next-generation electric system to reduce outages, improve response time and help customers manage their electric power usage.
The decision to construct a fiber-to-the-home network for the Smart Grid also provided the infrastructure to offer telecommunications services, so EPB broadened its business planning to include electricity, fiber optics and community benefit.
Four years ahead of Google Fiber’s Gig-speed internet deployment, Chattanooga’s EPB launched the first community-wide Gig availability in 2010.
Gig City was born.
When EPB announced ‘The Gig,’ everyone was asking, “what do you do with that much internet speed?” Since then, Gig-speed internet has served as a platform for innovation in opening new opportunities for increased productivity, remote work, education, telehealth, entertainment and more.
Since 2010, EPB has continued to up the internet speed game, offering 10-gig availability (2015) and, in 2022, the 25-gig service.
What does it all mean?
The average visitor will notice that movie streaming is much quicker, sending emails during a conference actually pushes through, and that free internet is available community-wide at our parks, attractions, restaurants, and more. But the EPB Smart Grid has other tangible benefits — some of which offer positioning for the future.
EPB’s fiber optic investment created a staggering tangible impact on families and businesses: a nearly $2.7 billion economic benefit, according to an independent study released by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, including 9,516 jobs and an extra $244 million in business ventures.
Chattanooga’s fiber optic network is also making strides to bridge the digital divide through HCS EdConnect, a partnership with the City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County to provide high-speed internet service at no charge to students in need.
From a tourism standpoint, it means that remote work is easy. It means that families can extend their stays and enjoy everything Chattanooga has to offer while still being able to provide income through remote positions. Many chose Chattanooga, grabbing the attention of PC Mag and Zillow, which awarded the city the top spot on their work-from-home and remote work lists.
It also offers a major competitive advantage in drawing meetings, conventions, e-gaming competitions, and sports events that bring thousands of visitors to Chattanooga, resulting in millions of dollars in economic impact.
With EPB at the forefront, Chattanooga is poised to be a technology leader in the future. And although we might not know exactly what that looks like, Chattanooga is positioned better than almost any city to find out and lead the way.
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