In October 2013, ‘The Gig’ came to Chattanooga. We became the only city in the Western Hemisphere to make gigabit broadband available to every house and business in the city. The slowest broadband available, the cheapest service package, became 100 megabits–that’s about twice the fastest speed in the UK’s biggest cities.
This miracle was done by–you’ll hardly believe this–the electric company.
The electric utility company EPB (Electric Power Board) is an unusual municipal-and-private combined venture with the unusually creative way of thinking that turns up so often here. EPB already had access to every home and business to provide electricity. Some years ago, EPB began laying fiber optic cable all over Chattanooga too.
That’s what makes it possible to deliver such blazingly fast broadband all over the city. But EPB didn’t lay all that fiber optic cable just to let people surf the Internet faster. EPB turned the city’s electricity distribution into a Smart Grid. With both electric wire and fiber optic data connections everywhere, the utility is able to know what’s happening with electricity consumption anywhere in the city, all the time, and adapt much more efficiently to changes in demand.
Power outages now happen less often and don’t last as long as they did before the Smart Grid.
This has attracted businesses that need fast, reliable presence on the Internet. For example, a business providing cloud based software services for manufacturers moved to Chattanooga from a low-wage Eastern European country. Venture capitalists have also noticed the new infrastructure and have begun investing in local businesses.
While visibly honoring its past, Chattanooga never stops looking forward and inventing its way into the future. The city doesn’t shout about it–just does it. We find this a nicely balanced attitude and hope you do too.