published Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Is EPB’s gig service a hoax ?

We’ve all heard that EPB can provide a gigabit of Internet service. Supposedly a constant stream of mind-bogglingly fast Internet that delivers a billion bits of Internet excitement per second is available — for a price — to every home and business in a 600 square mile area.  

The promise of the gig is trumpeted on billboards across the city and on TV ads during almost every commercial break.

The gig has become such a prevalent force in Chattanooga that city officials and community leaders are working to rebrand Chattanooga as the Gig City, for goodness sake.

With all the focus on the gig, you’d think EPB would be excited to show the service off. Strangely, however, it seems more people have seen a virgin at a brothel than have seen the gig in action for any extended time.

It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? What if it’s all a hoax? One big fat lie? What if EPB can’t actually provide a gigabit of constant Internet service?

That question is even more relevant after EPB essentially refused to provide Iron Labs, an upstart video gaming business, with gig service.

Sure, a few folks are signed up to receive the gig — there are between 2 and 26 commercial gig customers, depending on the month and who you ask.

But what makes Iron Labs unique is that, unlike EPB’s current gig customers who generally use only a fraction of a gig of bandwidth, the gaming business will use hundreds of megabits of bandwidth regularly, perhaps even occasionally approaching a gig.   

Iron Labs recently opened its doors on Chestnut Street, less than two blocks from EPB’s palatial $26 million downtown headquarters. Besides hosting video game tournaments and providing multiple stations where customers can play the latest video games on the newest consoles and computers, the facility also functions as a cyber café.

If there’s ever been a business in Chattanooga that could gobble up bandwidth, Iron Labs is it.

Apparently, EPB agreed. In August, Iron Labs snagged a $50,000 award courtesy of the Gig Tank — a contest featuring entrepreneurs dreaming up ways to use a gig in a commercial venture. EPB was one of the competition’s primary sponsors.

There was only one hitch. When Aaron Welch, the force behind Iron Labs, asked to partner with EPB to showcase the gig Internet service in his business, the electric company told him to buzz off.

When he then offered to purchase the gig at the advertised small business rate of $299.99 per month, EPB again refused, claiming only companies that could never actually use a gig were eligible for that price. EPB said that if Welch wanted the gig service, it would cost $50,000 — an outrageous sum for a small startup.

In the end, Welch had to rely on Comcast, EPB’s most bitter competitor, to provide Iron Labs with the needed bandwidth at a reasonable price.

It is clear that EPB only sells its gig service to customers who can never use anywhere near that much bandwidth. Potential customers who could utilize a gig are quoted an astronomical price to prevent them from actually purchasing it.

No one is naïve enough to think that EPB’s SmartGrid can handle dozens of users fully utilizing a gig of service – even if the infrastructure did cost taxpayers and electric customers $552 million. But it may be time to start asking if EPB can actually handle even one legitimate gigabit customer.

EPB, quit being a tease, if the gig is all it’s cracked up to be, prove it. Not for a few minutes here and there, but by providing it to a business that can really push the system to the limit and show what it can do.  

We’ve heard how the gig is the future. We’ve been told how it will change Chattanooga forever. We’ve shelled out the tax dollars and paid higher electric bills required to bankroll building the SmartGrid in a way that could praovide a gigabit of bandwidth through its fiber optic network.

Now it’s time to put up or shut up. 

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.

Funny, you never asked Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, or anybody else to put up.

In fact, I suspect if somebody proposed gov't regulations to stop THEIR deceptive advertising, you'd be against it. Because the "free-market" (read: the right to lie to the consumer) trumps all.

Just like you never mention throttling, traffic shaping, or any of the other things your precious and beloved Comcast does.

BTW, you didn't mention how much Comcast was charging. Why is that? Oh wait, isn't that because Comcast decided to use this company for its own purposes, as a poster-boy for their own operation?

Somehow I doubt the rest of us are going to get that kind of silver-platter treatment.

October 4, 2012 at 1:13 a.m.
naenae said...

Didn't EPB recently "give" people more speed? Squirrel.....

October 4, 2012 at 5:41 a.m.
aae1049 said...

EPB did increase their low product end, to match what Comcast was providing. Gig speed is only for perhaps 2 to 26 businesses, at best. Who can afford it?

October 4, 2012 at 6:31 a.m.
bret said...

Comcast doesn't offer a service with speeds that I get from my basic EPB package. The fastest Comcast offers is "Downloads up to 50 Mbps, uploads up to 10 Mbps." Compare that with the 50 Mbps upload AND download that I get from EPB. And EPB has faster plans as well.

October 4, 2012 at 9:17 a.m.
talync said...

My name is Brian Gray and I am the local Comcast Business Class representative that worked with Iron Labs to provide them with their solution. Regarding the comment above related to their deal, I can assure you that this customer has not received any special offers that are not extended to other Business Class customers just like them. My purpose as a Comcast representative is to provide local businesses with the best possible solution at the best possible rate. I have many loyal and happy customers like Iron Labs throughout the area and I would be happy to answer any questions or assist any business with their needs too. You can reach me at

October 4, 2012 at 9:21 a.m.
talync said...

bret, Comcast currently offers 100Mb speeds to residential or business customers. We have the ability to provide 10Gb speeds over our fiber network, however, as discussed, most businesses do not need that amount of bandwidth and therefore it doesn't justify the cost. As mentioned in today's paper, Iron Labs Inc. uses our 100Mb connection and it works for them!

October 4, 2012 at 9:38 a.m.
tetious said...

I strongly suspect this has something to do with usage caps. From what I've read, EPB's business class service has pretty severe usage based billing. If you even approach saturating a gig connection, you will chew through your allotment very quickly.

Residential service does not have usage caps right now, but EPB's TOS does allow them to start usage based billing at any time, and apparently without warning. (i.e. they can charge you as soon as they decide you are using too much bandwidth)

From the TOS: "EPB reserves the right in its sole discretion to enforce bandwidth allotments depending upon your level of usage and the level of Service(s) purchased. If you have exceeded the appropriate level of internet usage in any given month, EPB will notify you by phone or in writing. You agree to pay additional charges upon notice from EPB."

October 4, 2012 at 9:49 a.m.
gii2 said...

My rep Brian Gray (423) 593-3172 and Comcast has done an excellent job of keeping my small business of 4 employees running smooth. I know I can count on Brian being there when I need him and if I move my business he can make that go smooth as well.

October 4, 2012 at 9:51 a.m.
inkcow said...

talync, that statement, "[a]s mentioned in today's paper, Iron Labs Inc. uses our 100Mb connection and it works for them", makes this editorial even more disingenuous, then. Apparently Iron Labs neither needed, nor would have used, EPB's 1Gbs service if Comcast's 100Mb connection "works for them".

It is difficult to know EPB's motivations for denying gig service to Iron Labs, but I'm pretty sure they would have been happy to provide 100Mbs or 300Mbs service to Iron Labs (which apparently would have been fine).

Either the 100Mbs service is a tremendous compromise on Iron Labs' part and they operating at only 1/10th of their potential (which doesn't read as 'works for them!') or consistent 1Gbs bandwidth was over-specification on Iron Labs' part.

October 4, 2012 at 9:54 a.m.
inkcow said...

gii2, that's a good point: there is definitely a conflation here between bandwidth and monthly usage quota and they have nothing to do with each other (although 1Gps can help you reach your quota much faster). I would agree that the issue here is over bandwidth per month, not bandwidth per second, which sort of undermines the article's thesis.

By way of example, it's understandable for a trucking company to put their business near an interstate exit: there may be jams at peak times, but their proximity to the on/off ramps should mitigate congestion for everybody else. It's not ok, however, if the company's fleet is so large that nobody can then use the exit because the flow of trucks coming in and out is peaking 24/7.

October 4, 2012 at 10:13 a.m.
mkelley said...

So you want them to give it to you, without you having to fund anything? That's sounds like b.s to me.

October 4, 2012 at 10:15 a.m.
smeddinger said...

I would like to give accolades to BRIAN GRAY and comcast. He is a true class act and extremely helpful provides exceptional custotmer service for his accounts. From business I have spoke with the speed of their internet is outstanding!! Also saving hundreds of dollars have put more money back in local business's pockets! WEll done Brian GRAY and comcast!
BRian Gray Contact INFO (423-593-3172)

October 4, 2012 at 11:09 a.m.

Gee, look at all the new people out here, praising Comcast. And one specific person in particular.


What does that tell you? It tells me somebody is likely encouraging them to post here, in an effort to appear to be providing grass roots support.

Of course it's done so transparently that you wonder why they'd bother.

BTW, Comcast also has usage quotas and bandwidth caps.

That's how they operate, and it's how others do too.

"In the next few months, we are going to launch improved data usage management approaches that are in step with plans that other Internet service providers in the market are using and will provide our customers with more choice and flexibility than our current plan."

You can also find examples of Comcast's TOS covering over-usage of your bandwidth.

Sorry folks, but anybody who knows what is going on is saying "Ho-Hum" to all of this. It's all the same in that regard.

October 4, 2012 at 12:06 p.m.
Fendrel said...

For a time I also ran EPB's 100mb service from my home. Excellent performance and service.

October 4, 2012 at 12:29 p.m.
HDianeDixon said...

Say what you want about folks giving public compliments. I for one don't mind telling other business owners that Comcast provided me with exactly what I needed, no more, no less, and at a great price. Brian Gray was my rep, too. He gave exemplary service, and I don't mind giving him a public compliment. In fact, I appreciate it when business owners pass along information about where they got good service or the best products for their money.

October 4, 2012 at 1:10 p.m.
OnFire said...

Did Brian alert me about the article...yes. Is Brian my Comcast rep...yes. But there is no amount of money in the world that would make me post something I didn't believe. The truth is, he takes care of me and my business. I'm happy he brought this to my attention. I read the headlines today and laughed. About time we see both sides. It feels like the city has been cramming EPB down my throat for so long I'm getting sick. If you don't like Comcast as your internet provider...fine. Choose another provider. If you don't like EPB as your power provider...fine. Choose ano...wait a minute. Never mind. You can't. Hmmm. I'm just saying.

And by the way. I noticed Brian never hid who he was or who he worked for. How many EPB employees are posting here? Again...just saying.

October 4, 2012 at 1:37 p.m.
gigawho said...

Let's address a few things here. Aaron Welch won a $10,000 prize for Digital Media; he did NOT win the whole shebang. Accuracy in reporting much?

Bandwidth costs money. If you're going to be using a lot of it, expect to pay for it, period. The prices that these articles keep trying to reference is for Residential customers only. Businesses are expected to use considerably more than a residential customer, and guess what, they're going to pay more. If Mr. Welch required a gig, how is he currently making Comcast's 100MB service work? EPB also offers comparative packages to what Comcast is running, but it would appear that Mr. Welch isn't familiar with how the business world works, and thought that he should just be given something because he had an idea that could possibly make use of a gig service.

As far as whether or not the gig service is a hoax or not.. are you serious? Would you like some Internet speed test results? Because they're out there in droves. EPB speeds are symmetrical, which is way more than any copper-based service provider can say. Comcast can say all day long how they have same thing, but they don't bring it to the home, they keep it at the office. On top of this, their speeds are NOT symmetrical (same amount both ways). While they continue to falsely claim they're the fastest provider in the nation, they're being consistently beaten. Comcast offers a residential 50MBps connection for $114.95/month, whereas the exact same service with EPB will run you $57.99. EPB service is a true symmetrial 50MBps, Comcast is not.

As far as the whole spiel about paying a higher electric bill, please go read some more. Not only is the fiber revenue for phone, television, and internet services covering its own costs, it is also directly contributing to the electric budget, and has even PREVENTED rate increases. All this while not raising prices for the fiber services. And on top of everything, the fiber network is performing beautifully in the role it was designed for, which is reducing outages and down time of the elctric system.

If you're going to talk the talk, please be able to back up your statements.

October 4, 2012 at 2:25 p.m.
awelch said...

So let me clear up a few things that are wrong with this article and its portrayal of the facts.

  1. Iron Gaming won the $10,000 Warner Brothers digital media prize in the Gigtank Event this summer. We also receive $15,000 in seed capital that was funded by local and regional venture groups.

  2. EPB valued our proposal for the "EPB Gig Gaming Center", an extension of the GigLabs project, at $50,000 per an email from Danna Bailey to me.

  3. We were asking for the "Gig" only to help promote EPB in the media by visually showing and making a physical representation of what a "Gig" can do for gamers in EPB's customer base. This service would have been exclusive to EPB's customer base and have provided a way for Iron Gaming to promote our gaming league in the region. Did we NEED a gig, no. When we finally asked to pay for the service, we kept getting referred back to Danna Bailey and as of August 2 (before the end of the Gigtank Contest) we have not heard back from anyone at EPB.

  4. Our relationship with Comcast has been fantastic from an Iron Labs (brick and mortar gaming store) and Iron Gaming (online gaming league) perspective. Comcast has helped open doors for us and provided a significant amount of support for our startup.

  5. My only "beef" with EPB is that the people we were dealing with did not understand the technical details of what we were offering and therefor did not value what the proposal could provide them. To this day I do not hold any animosity towards EPB and will still do all that I can in supporting them and the growth of the startup community in the "Gig City".

Aaron Welch President Iron Labs and Iron Gaming

October 4, 2012 at 2:55 p.m.
kmharvey78 said...

I don't know much about EPB. All I know is that Comcast rocks and we use Brian Gray to help us with all our business needs. I've never needed to go to EPB because I'm extremely happy with Comcast's price, service, and relationship with our business. Brian, you rock!!! I think the majority has voted.

October 4, 2012 at 3:59 p.m.
volstate said...

EPB has a long history of refusing to sell to companies that actually will come close to using the "gig". My company has been trying for over 2 years now to buy service from EPB. They are actually keeping competition out of the city by refusing access to the public network, built with public dollars. Here is a blog that writes about municipal networks.

October 4, 2012 at 4:14 p.m.

Sorry folks, but you being told to post here actually makes me come up with the OPPOSITE assessment, that what you are saying can't be trusted, that you are shills who are being encouraged to post. That's a common thing on the internet, with Astroturf campaigns. Did you think nobody would notice it?

Me? I'm not an employee or affiliate of EPB, but thanks for asking.

And I'm amused that you want us to think this is a vote, when it's just one guy telling people to come here and say good things about him. Gee, isn't that like a voluntary poll? How about you try a less biased way of getting things done? Nah, you'd rather just think "Hey, if we all gang up together, we can make it appear as if we have a majority support" instead of actually relying on substance or truth.

As for complaining about having another power company as a choice, I'm sorry, but do you really think you want more than one company running electrical wires across town? If you want to live in a state where you can pick your electric provider, fair enough try Texas. EPB isn't producing power though, they're buying from TVA. If you think they, or TVA should buy or produce power in some other way than how they do? Great, you know what you can do? Go to their public meetings and have your input on it. Or contact your political representatives, as they too have input. They're a public company, and are obliged to listen.

Is the same true of Comcast?

And really, you do want to look up Comcast's history of exclusive arrangements with local municipalities. They're not a local public company with monopoly by default, they're a massive corporation with monopolies all over the country.

But I'm sure you'd rather pretend not to know about it.

Ah, but the editorial here would rather praise Comcast, and all the shills for Comcast, encouraged by a Rep of said company, come here and try to make us think Comcast is so great.

It's probably a good thing you don't control all of the media.

October 4, 2012 at 4:55 p.m.
aae1049 said...


Great service from a free market business. Stand strong Comcast, the EPB Gov Bond-a-thon money will run out. In fact, their bond rating has dropped from a AAA to AA because they have wasted so much money. The EPB advertising has been on overdose of gov money. Oh yeah, I love me Comcast, free market at its best. My family would like to be in the next comcast commercial stating how we never left comcast for EPB.

October 4, 2012 at 6:03 p.m.
fftspam said...

Idiots. When did Free Press editorial page become an AD for Comcast? Do some research.. Do you think that Amazon has one computer hooked up to some ISP, like Comcast? Yeah. So does Google... they have one computer hooked up to an ISP, like Comcast. Of course they don't.

October 4, 2012 at 6:08 p.m.

aae1049, ah, that's cute, I'm sure your non-experience with any other choices will be JUST what they want to say.

But there's a little problem with Comcast's actual ratings. They aren't well beloved for some reason. Why don't they mention that in their commercials?

fftspam, oh several months now, the editorial writer here can't stand that a municipal network is offering a better service that is forcing Comcast to compete, and hates the idea that gov't, even one as abstractly related as EPB, can do anything right.

October 4, 2012 at 7:34 p.m.
plathw said...

I have a web design business, completely dependent on fast, dependable internet speeds. You really need to look into what your computer can actually use...I have never, not once, been slowed down transferring several gigs every week. I love my comcast service.

October 4, 2012 at 11:41 p.m.

Several gigs each week, huh?

That seems quite obviously to be well under Comcast's admitted threshold.

Let us know what results you get when you scale up your usage.

Or did you expect your blind platitude to be taken on faith?

October 5, 2012 at midnight
328Kwebsite said...

Until recently, it used to be obvious that Comcast and EPB were interlinked. Anyone running a traceroute on an EPB feed would turn up a report from the local Comcast servers on Polymer Drive.

This idea that those two businesses are not interlinked represents a significant factual inaccuracy on the part of the Free Press. Once again, you've gotten it wrong by failing to do basic research.

Ping your own server from an EPB connection and find out.

If you notice the several links masked on the traceroute report, you may notice that it's not to Comcast's commercial advantage to report that it is sharing service with a local competitor. The main advantage that EPB provides is customer service. Comcast farms it out; EPB responds locally.

They use the same internet infrastructure. It's here in Chattanooga because an effort was made back in the 90s to get it. Thank the Luptons and other local donors who wanted the best they could get for UTC.

And fix your editorial by doing some research for a change. Thanks.

October 5, 2012 at 12:49 a.m.
John_Proctor said...

"The main advantage that EPB provides is customer service. Comcast farms it out; EPB responds locally."

Crapcast does not farm out its customer service. They have NO customer service to speak of.

After 5 attempts, including 2 service calls they blew off, we switched in frustration and have lived happily ever after. I have no skin in the gig argument game. However, I have experienced firsthand the low level of customer service that Crapcast regularly delivers. Two tin cans and miles of string would have been more reliable than the level of connectivity provided by this company. The Drewster never factors that in his endless rants about the evil EPB. Many locals buy the service because of the low level of service provided by his beloved private company. I don't care how fast a connection you buy, it is useless if it is not reliable.

October 5, 2012 at 11:56 a.m.
Salsa said...

EPB shills make me laugh.

October 8, 2012 at 12:03 p.m.
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