Tradition in the South dies hard, but “Gig City” may give “The Scenic City,” Chattanooga’s official nickname, some high-tech competition.
Chattanooga is the first city in the Western Hemisphere to offer 1-gigabit-per-second fiber Internet service to all its residents and businesses,150,000 of them across a 600-square-mile area. EPB, the city’s publicly owned electric power system, finished installation in early 2011.
As part of its long-range planning, EPB decided against interim steps toward a smart grid and opted for a 100 percent fiber-optic network as the best, most cost-effective way to improve communications and network speed, says J. Ed Marston, a vice president at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. The Gig City Initiative is capitalizing on the connectivity, using it as an economic development recruiting draw and sponsoring competitions among students and entrepreneurs to launch future uses of the super-fast capability.
GigTank, which vied for $300,000 in seed capital, was chosen in August 2012.
“This event was the first of its kind to allow participating entrepreneurs and students to develop real-world, ultra-bandwidth apps and test them with real-world users and then to launch businesses based on them,” Marston says. “No one else has a real-world network of users.”
Chattanooga’s residents and businesses have Internet speeds 20 to 200 times the maximum available in most other communities. Homeserve USA picked Chattanooga for a new customer care center in large part because the network was under construction, and in April 2012 announced the addition of 120 new jobs.
“It is having a real impact on existing industry and recruitment,” Marston says.