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Staff photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press - February 03, 2011. David Pennington, the mayor of Dalton, Ga., stands outside of the City Hall.

Dalton, Georgia is the capital of the $10 billion-a-year carpet industry, but Mayor David Pennington is eager for the city to capitalize on more than making floorcovering.

Dalton's fiber optic telecommunications network launched by the city-owned Dalton Utilities nearly two decades ago to better serve the carpet industry has also made Dalton one of the best cities in America for remote work, according to a new study by the internet provider InMyArea.com.

Among more than 800 U.S. cities analyzed for the accessibility and cost of high-speed internet services and housing affordability, Dalton was rated the best city in Georgia and one of the top five medium-sized towns in the country to work from home.

Dalton Utilities' OptiLink offers Gig service throughout the entire city of Dalton for $79.95 a month and was one of the first cities in America to also offer up to 10 Gig internet speeds anywhere in Dalton.

"It's the great things we have here like Dalton Utilities, their fiber-optic network, that let you do anything here for any employer at any time," Pennington said. "COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of internet connectivity and working from home and we think we have a real opportunity to showcase the advantages of living in Dalton."

Best big cities

1. San Antonio

2. Dallas

3. Philadelphia

4. Houston

5. San Diego

Source: InMyArea.com analysis of 800 communities. Ranking based on the share of residents with access to high-speed internet and its costs, along with the cost of rental housing.

 

Pennington said front office staff at Dalton's major floorcovering companies already telecommuting and working remotely.

"And no matter if your home office is in Chattanooga, Atlanta, wherever it is we're also right on I-75," he said.

Dalton also offers cheaper housing and living costs than most cities "so when you can live anywhere to work, we have some real advantages in Dalton," Pennington said.

According to the latest price surveys last month compiled by the American Chamber of Commerce Research Association, average rents in Dalton are 12.5% lower than the U.S. average. Dalton's grocery prices average 31% less than the national average and restaurant prices in Dalton average nearly 37% less than the rest of the country.

With quarantines and lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year, many workers have shifted from an office environment to remote work. While many of those workers are shifting back to their offices, there are indications that some businesses will be sticking with the remote work model in years to come.

A Stanford University study released last year indicated that the share of work-from-home days across the economy is expected to rise from about 5% before COVID to as much as 20% of workers.

"All COVID did was speed up the process that was already happening," Pennington said.

Dalton launched one of the first municipal fiber-to-the-home networks in 2003. The internet, video and phone service added GIGLink with gigabyte-per-second internet speeds in 2018 and in 2019 Dalton Utilities began offering 10-Gig service throughout its service territory — the fastest Internet speed available in the world to residential subscribers.

The FCC currently defines broadband as 25 Mbps down/ 3Mbps up. The 10 Gig service affords downloads and uploads up to 400 times faster than the national average.

Dalton Utilities serves approximately 50,000 customers with electricity, water, or sewer service and about 14,000 households or businesses with its OptiLink telecommunication services.

"We are proud to offer our residents the very best in ultra-high-speed Internet and next-generation video, delivering services wanted and needed by so many communities," Dalton Utilities' Chief Technical Services Officer Hank Blackwood said when the 10Gig service was added. "Very few areas have this level of fiber optic capability."

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

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