Chattanooga gigs 'Iron Man 3' for Gig error

Chattanooga gigs 'Iron Man 3' for Gig error

May 11th, 2013 by Ellis Smith in Local Regional News

This film publicity image shows Robert Downey Jr., left, as Tony Stark/Iron Man and Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts in a scene from "Iron Man 3."

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POLL: Are you going to see Iron Man 3""

The producers of "Iron Man 3" could not have made a less appropriate choice when they depicted Chattanooga as a deep-fried technological backwater in their blockbuster film.

That's what a handful of Chattanoogans tweeted at Tony Stark on Friday, taking the movie's protagonist to task for his inaccurate portrayal of the city's Internet speeds.

"Please tell Tony to come for a real visit to Chattanooga," tweeted a user calling himself Chattanooga Gig during a nationwide chat with the Iron Man himself.

In the course of the movie, Stark humorously struggles and becomes frustrated in his search for sufficient Internet bandwidth in the Scenic City.

But ironically, Chattanooga -- also called the Gig City -- is home to the fastest communitywide Internet speeds in the Western Hemisphere, boasting citywide access to 1-gigabit speeds for any resident willing to spend $300 per month.

Neither the film's producers nor Iron Man's Twitter persona responded to repeated requests for comment. Perhaps filmmakers' decision never to visit or film in Chattanooga played a part in the movie's glaring mistake.

But city bigwigs who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars building and promoting the city's Internet infrastructure were only too happy to piggyback on the film's popularity, taking the opportunity to score some free publicity.

J.Ed. Marston, vice president of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, sent a news release this week to a handful of national media outlets in an attempt to debunk Chattanooga's portrayal, and lucked out when the rebuttal went viral. Almost 200 media outlets around the country had published a variant of the story by Friday evening, according to Google News.

Marston doesn't believe the silver screen slight was intentional, but rather a product of stereotypes held by Northerners about Southern towns. The film's director, producer, and star Robert Downey Jr. are from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York City, respectively.

"They just used Chattanooga as a placeholder small Southern town without realizing that it's a more interesting place than people expect," Marston said. "This is an example of Hollywood defaulting to the stereotype that ended up being not only inaccurate, but ironically different from what was portrayed."

The Chattanooga Chamber and EPB have recruited around the nation for entrepreneurs to build their broadband-based businesses by the river, with some success. Local boosters have spent millions to host the Gig Tank, a contest for inventors from across the country to build the best business idea using the lightning-fast Internet speeds.

Somehow, Hollywood missed the headlines.

"We surely don't want to pick a fight with a guy in an iron suit, but we really do have the fastest Internet in the country and we'd like to show him," said Harold DePriest, president and CEO of EPB, which began providing ultrafast citywide broadband in 2010.

The utility built the city's fiber-optic Internet backbone in part with a Department of Energy grant that also funded the use of new smart power meters that can measure energy demand and use and shift power around when an outage strikes.

"We do a lot to get that word out, but you never know anything like this is going on until it happens," said DePriest, who noted he has yet to see the film.

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at 423-757-6315 or esmith@timesfreepress.com.