Chattanooga named as White House partner in new broadband program

Chattanooga named as White House partner in new broadband program

June 13th, 2012 by Ellis Smith in Local - Breaking News

President Barack Obama

The White House today announced a two-part plan to increase ultra high speed broadband access across the U.S., modeling much of the plan on efforts already under way in Chattanooga.

As part of the new push, President Barrack Obama on Thursday will sign an executive order that will direct federal agencies better cooperate with private broadband providers in building out next-generation infrastructure, which the administration is calling its "dig once" policy, according to spokesman Rick Weiss.

Obama's order is designed to ease the underground installation of ultra-fast fiber optic backbone lines, which must often cross federal land or pass by federal buildings, Weiss said.

The plan's second prong is a new public-private partnership called US Ignite, which connects gigabit-capable cities like Chattanooga together in the name of research.

Through US Ignite, the White House hopes to begin researching what the future Internet might look like, said Tom Kalil, deputy director for policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

"We have a growing number of communities that do have these ultra-high speed networks, and US ignite will help show what's possible when communities are connected," Kalil said.

The National Science Foundation will invest $20 million to research and link the networks of 25 cities that are building or have built ultra-fast braodband, as well as 60 research institutions, said Farnam Jahanian, assistant director at the National Science Foundation.

"US Ignite will be able to stitch together high speed researchers to create a national test bed across us universities and across the country," Jahanian said.

Chattanooga's city-owned utility, EPB, built the Smart Grid gigabit system for the city's 170,000 residents in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy for about $220 million. Chattanooga began offering the city's residents gigabit broadband service in 2010, and is still the only U.S. city to offer the service to every city resident.

US Ignite defines a next-generation networks as more than 100 megabits, or 1/10 of a gigabit.

Read more in tomorrow's Times Free Press