EPB pushes 10 Gig speed

Fastest broadband in the world comes to Chattanooga

Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 10/15/15. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke comments on EPB's announcement that residents of the Tennessee valley will have the opportunity to have the worlds fastest home 10-gig internet service.
Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 10/15/15. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke comments on EPB's announcement that residents of the Tennessee valley will have the opportunity to have the worlds fastest home 10-gig internet service.

How fast is 10 Gig Internet?

Equal to 10 billion bits per second, it’s enough bandwidth to stream 1,754 online movies all at the same time – in HD – from a single Internet connection without experiencing any buffering or lag time.

Five years after launching the fastest citywide Internet in the Western Hemisphere, Chattanooga's EPB announced Thursday it is accelerating its broadband speed to one of the fastest Internet services in the world.

"We are now offering 10-gig (10,000 mbps) service to every home and every business in our 600-square-mile service territory," EPB President Harold DePriest told government and business leaders gathered at the utility's headquarters Thursday. "It is the largest and most powerful Internet service in the world."

The new service, billed as NextNet, will initially be priced for residential customers at $299 a month, or more than four times the current $69.99 monthly rate for EPB's single-gig service.

"If enough people sign up, the price will go down just as it did with our gig service," DePriest said.

Businesses that use the Internet more frequently will pay more, however. Small businesses can obtain the 10-gig service from EPB for $1,500 a month. The biggest professional business users will pay $9,000 a month for the 10-gig service.

Chattanooga already has capitalized on its ultra-fast Internet speed from EPB to bill itself as the "Gig City," which Mayor Andy Berke said has attracted global attention and lured several data and 3-D printing businesses to relocate or set up operations here. Berke likened the growing speed of Chattanooga's Internet links to the interstate highways erected in America in the 1950s.

"Those highways transformed our country and the whole world by making goods and services available to people at a faster speed - and brought opportunity to most everybody," Berke said. "Our new 10-gig Internet offers us an opportunity we haven't seen anywhere."

EPB is moving in the fast lane of the Internet superhighway to stay ahead of Google, AT&T and Comcast, which have all unveiled plans for gig and even 2-gig service in selected areas.

Google Fiber, which debuted its gig service in 2012, has rolled out community-wide gig service in three cities - Kansas City, Provo, Utah, and Austin, Texas - and is in the process of adding gig service in 13 others, including Atlanta and Nashville. AT&T's GigaPower said earlier this year it will soon deliver 1-gig service to nine Georgia cities in the Atlanta area.

Comcast Corp. sought to race past EPB's single-gig service with its new Gigabit Pro service in Chattanooga and others cities, promising in May to deliver broadband speeds of 2 gigabits per second.

Comcast's Gigabit Pro is being offered initially in Chattanooga for $159 a month, or just over half the usual $299 price. But Comcast's Gigabit Pro is available only to customers within one-third of a mile of Comcast's fiber network and consumers must pay hookup fees and sign a contract.

EPB, which is matching Comcast's Gigabit Pro standard monthly fee in what it will charge for the even faster NextNext service, boasts that its new 10-gig service, like its other broadband options, is available anywhere in its service region and does not have an installation fee and doesn't require a contract.

Even backers of EPB's 10-gig service acknowledge that few may know yet how to utilize the speed of 10-gig service, and most routers and Internet service providers elsewhere may not even be able to handle so much data so quickly.

"The typical home computer today does not have the network cards off the shelf to support 10-gig service, but you can buy a network card and router to support this capacity and over time demand for higher speed Internet service will continue to grow," said David Wade, a vice president at EPB who has worked for the past several months testing the faster Internet links.

Andrew Blum, who wrote about the Internet infrastructure in his book, "Tubes," told Wired magazine that "it's almost impossible to push that much traffic" through existing networks and computers.

"I think anything beyond 100 megabits (or one-tenth of a gig) can be understood as a publicity stunt - and a good one!" he said.

Indeed, EPB's "Gig City" logo for Chattanooga and the Company Lab's summertime Gigtank accelerator has attracted global recognition and helped spur the growth of several new 3-D printing and computer app companies.

Charlie Brock, the CEO of LaunchTN who sold his Chattanooga business nearly a decade ago before working with venture capital and startup programs, said Chattanooga had virtually no venture capital and technology startups in seven years ago.

"Today, Chattanooga is seen as one of the best cities in America to start a business," he said, citing this week's assembly of 250 tech investors at the AngelSummit US in Chattanooga.

Danny Rollins, vice president of business for Alcatel-Lucent, said his company has developed new equipment and technology to process the faster upload and download speeds along EPB's fiber optic network, which the city-owned utility originally began building nearly a decade ago to help build a smart power grid.

"When we first introduced the gig, no one was using it," Rollins recalled. "But soon people developed applications."

EPB has about 6,300 business and residential customers using its gig service and nearly 70,000 others who subscribe to some other type of EPB telecom services, either cable TV, Internet or telephone.

Chattanooga is among a handful of cities where telecom providers are now bragging about 10-gig Internet service.

Last year, US Internet said it would provide 10-gig service to parts of Minneapolis to existing customers willing to pay the $400-per-month fee. Vermont Telephone announced in June it will offer 10-gig service to its 18,000 customers in Springfield, Vt., and Salisbury, N.C., said last month it will provide 10-gig service to 33,000 customers by next year.

DePriest said EPB is the first to offer such capability to all homes and businesses - not just point to point service - for an entire 600-square-mile service territory. That capability, he said, makes the region a living laboratory for Internet app and gaming companies eager to use faster Internet speeds.

"Chattanooga is the perfect place for companies to enhance their productivity today and test the applications everyone in the country will want tomorrow," DePriest said.

Chattanooga's fiber optic network has already produced tangible results, according to a study released this summer by University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Finance professor Bento Lobo. The study found "the Gig Network" helped the Chattanooga area generate at least 2,800 new jobs and at least $865.3 million in economic and social benefits. Lobo also estimated that EPB's smart grid cut power outages by 60 percent.

EPB debuted is high-speed telecom service in 2010 after issuing more than $220 million in bonds to finance a fiber optic network to help the electricity supplier install a smart power grid. EPB benefited from a $111.7 million federal stimulus grant to help pay for the smart grid.

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

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