Gig City leaders say they are boosting internet speeds again, and they say it will make Chattanooga the first community anywhere in the world to offer citywide 25 gigabit-per-second broadband service to all homes and businesses.
EPB, Chattanooga's municipal utility, announced Wednesday it's boosting its internet connection speeds to offer 25G service through its fiber optic division.
"The world's fastest internet just got faster," EPB President David Wade announced during an event at the Chattanooga Convention Center, which signed up as the first customer of the higher-speed internet service. "Our goal is to future-proof our community network so our customers are ready for new challenges and opportunities."
The city utility is moving into an even faster lane of the information superhighway to stay ahead of AT&T, Google and other internet providers that continue to add speed and capacity to service the growing number of Wi-Fi-enabled devices in homes and businesses.
Aided by $302,000 in assistance from the city of Chattanooga and Hamilton County, the Chattanooga Convention Center will be the first customer of EPB's new 25G service, which is expected to become operational by this fall.
"The new 25 gig internet service gives our convention center a major competitive advantage in drawing business conferences, conventions, e-gaming competitions and other events that bring tens of thousands of visitors and many millions of dollars in spending into our local economy," Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said in a statement.
More than 650,000 visitors come to the Chattanooga Convention Center annually, and Coppinger said the high-speed internet links are vital to help Chattanooga grow its $1.5 billion a year tourism industry.
EPB's 25G service is beyond the capacity of most routers, and internet service providers elsewhere may not even be able to handle so much data so quickly. Initially, EPB will charge residential customers $1,500 a month for the 25G service and $12,500 a month for commercial customers.
EPB boosts its speed to 25G across its footprint
But as households and businesses have more internet-connected devices with greater internet needs, the extra speed and capacity is likely to be used in the future by more EPB subscribers.
Mary Beth Hudson, executive director of the Smart Factory Institute, said in an interview at the event that the improved internet services will be vital as more manufacturers employ robots, autonomous vehicles and other technologies dependent upon fast and reliable broadband services.
"This is another huge boon for our economy," Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly said during Wednesday's announcement.
Kelly said nearly 10,000 people moved into the Chattanooga area over the past couple of years during the pandemic and surveys of the new residents found Chattanooga's outdoor attractions and EPB's high-speed internet connections were the top draws for the region.
As more jobs shift to remote work and more devices are powered or controlled by the internet, EPB's high-speed broadband available throughout the utility's 600-square-mile service territory will propel more growth, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce President Christy Gillenwater said.
"For the world's fastest internet and the nation's most advanced smart city infrastructure, Chattanooga is the best place for companies to locate," Gillenwater said in a statement Wednesday. "EPB's new 25 gig internet represents a new platform to support companies in innovating and growing."
The 25G service for EPB comes seven years after EPB created its 10G service throughout its 600-square-mile service territory.
EPB, which has provided electricity in Chattanooga since its start in 1935, added broadband service in 2009 when the utility launched its EPB fiber optic network. EPB boosted the speed to 1 gig speed in 2010, making Chattanooga the "Gig City" by offering 1,000 Mbps residential internet speeds to its customers. In 2015, EPB says it was the first in the world to offer 10,000 Mbps to every home and business in the community.
In its first year, EPB had only 10 Gig customers. But today, more than 37% of the 128,000 subscribers of EPB telecom services now pay the $67 monthly fee for the service.
The service is being offered through Nokia's symmetrical 25G PON (passive optical network) fiber broadband network.
"Nokia and EPB have a proven track record over the past two decades of bringing fiber access, innovations to meet the market needs," David Eckard, chief technology officer for North America at Nokia said in a statement. "This will allow you to be not just a gateway to the South, but a gateway to the digital future."