Internet as a public utility — #GigCity

From our Relevanza site:

Internet as a public utility — #GigCity

You may know the city better as it’s identified on maps: Chattanooga, Tennessee. And Chattanooga is known for many things: a rich and storied history, a pivotal turning point in the U.S. Civil War, the launching point for the shameful Trail of Tears ethnic cleansing of Cherokee people, a premier industrial center of the South, a multi-faceted tourist destination, a university town and much more.

But since the early part of the 21st Century and in the 600-square-mile area served by Chattanooga’s municipally-owned Electric Power Board — or EPB — the community is also known as #GigCity, a pioneer in providing 1 gigabyte-per-second high-speed broadband internet service along its fiber optic lines — yes, as a public utility. It now offers 10 gigabytes-per-second of speed. As much as 50 times faster than the average broadband speed in the U.S.

(Editor’s Note: this is the first in a series of pieces discussing the internet as a public utility. Read the second piece. Read the third piece.)

As the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), now under the direction of Trump Administration appointees, seeks to roll back the FCC landmark decision in 2015 to classify all internet service in the U.S. as a public utility, Chattanooga’s EPB stands as the gold standard for internet service that works best when it serves its community as, in fact, a public utility.

In Chattanooga, you see, not only is electric power supplied by the municipally-owned EPB — now also a premier smart grid electric utility — but also land-line telephone, cable television service and, of course, the internet.

“It really began as an extension of our dedication, first and foremost, to public service,” explains John Pless, director of media relations for EPB. “Since our earliest days our main product has been public service.”

The drive to provide broadband internet for Chattanooga actually began in the mid-1980s when EPB realized it would need to seriously upgrade its aging electric grid.

“It became obvious to us quickly that rebuilding our infrastructure with fiber optic lines was the most cost-effective, most useful way to go,” Pless recounts.

Once the decision was reached to rebuild the electric grid with fiber optics it became clear the city could also eventually offer not only telephone service but cable television, too, and, eventually, high-speed internet.

“The movement toward city-wide broadband internet service actually began in a discussion at our Downtown Kiwanis Club among civic activists,” Pless said.

From that small discussion among civic-minded business owners grew what is today #GigCity.

A bond issue and a $111 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, part of the Economic Stimulus Act of of 2008, paid for the infrastructure rebuild and by 2010 EPB — the City of Chattanooga — was offering 1,000 megabyte-per-second high speed internet service to all its business and residential electric customers.

Since then, #GigCity has resulted in the creation of a boom-town start-up business sector, the creation of thousands of new jobs and an estimated $6 billion business investment infusion into the community. EPB’s internet service has garnered 55 percent of the market in Chattanooga and gaining every day.

Close to 500 other communities around the U.S. are now in the process of considering, designing or building municipal broadband infrastructures and the commercial internet service providers (ISPs) such as Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and others are not happy about it.

Just the big telecoms fought Chattanooga in the the early days, they are now lobbying hard and heavy for the FCC to roll back Net Neutrality and restore their firm grip on internet service in the U.S.

But as the example of Chattanooga clearly demonstrates, the internet as a public utility results in reliable, high-speed, unfettered internet service and economic stability — even rapid growth — to communities served by it.

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