Obama hails Chattanooga as 'tornado of innovation'

Obama hails Chattanooga as 'tornado of innovation'

January 15th, 2015 by Dave Flessner in Local Regional News

President Barack Obama speaks at Cedar Falls Utilities on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015, in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

President Barack Obama speaks at Cedar Falls Utilities...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

President Barack Obama lifted up Chattanooga for a second consecutive day as an example of what high-speed Internet service can bring to a community, calling the Scenic City "a tornado of innovation."

In a speech Wednesday in Cedar Falls, Iowa -- another city with gigabit-per-second Internet speed through its municipal utility -- Obama praised the turnaround in Chattanooga.

Obama said as "an old railroad town" Chattanooga was once the dirtiest city in the nation and suffered more than most during the recession.

"But that did not stop them from building America's first citywide, high-speed, fiber network --- right down the middle of downtown," Obama said Wednesday. "Today, a new generation of engineers and entrepreneurs has moved down to Chattanooga."

Obama credited EPB's high-speed broadband started four years ago for helping to spur more technology and innovation in the city.

"It's unleashing a tornado of innovation -- the city is even testing out futuristic technologies like 3-D holograms," the president said. "And here's what their former mayor said ... 'It's like being the first city to have fire. We don't know all of the things we can do with it yet.'"

The speech came a day after Obama also highlighted Chattanooga and Cedar Falls in a talk Tuesday from the Oval Office in the White House. Both cities are among the first in the Western Hemisphere to offer gigabit-per-second Internet speed.

Obama is pushing the FCC to end state limits on municipalities and others that might start higher-speed Internet and he is expected to push in his State of the Union speech next week for more effort to bring high-speed broadband to the entire country.

Obama's interest in the Scenic City wasn't lost on Mayor Andy Berke.

Berke urged about 900 people at the annual Mayor's Business Breakfast on Wednesday to go online at whitehouse.gov to look at a video of Obama in the Oval Office talking about the city.

Berke said the president notes that more of the country needs to be like Chattanooga when it comes to economic development and broadband.

"The president is talking about all these things going on in Chattanooga," Berke said. "The entire world is looking at what we're doing here."

He cited Tuesday's naming of the city's innovation district downtown.

"To me, I look at this and see the difference of where I was as a kid with a city center that was dying and where I am today with a beating heart that is vibrant and energetic and bold and an example to the rest of the county," Berke said.

He added that Chattanooga still has lots to work on, including talent, workforce development and education.

In Cedar Falls, Obama for the second time in three months cast himself as an antagonist to large cable and telephone companies that provide the bulk of the nation's Internet service.

Obama said faster speeds would create jobs and allow local businesses to compete in the global economy.

"Today high-speed broadband is not a luxury, it's a necessity," Obama said from a storage area at Cedar Falls Utilities, with shelves full of coiled wire and other equipment.

Obama is encouraging the FCC to pre-empt state laws that stifle competition and said his administration will work to cut red tape so more communities can get connected.

Staff writer Mike Pare and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact staff writer Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepresscom or 423-757-6340.


Loading...