Tennessee Municipal Utility Offers 1 Gbps to the Home
Chattanooga, Tennessee, now boasts the fastest Internet service in the country.
EPB Fiber Optics announced last week that by the end of this year it will offer ultra-high-speed Internet service of up to 1 Gbps to the end user’s home or business.
EPB, a subsidiary of Chattanooga’s electric utility, operates the largest municipal 100% fiber optic network in the country. Back in 2007, the city council voted 8-0 to approve the $200 million project, and despite two failed legal attempts by the cable industry to derail the project it has moved forward. The company services 170,000 homes and business spread over 600 square miles in Chattanooga, Hamilton County and parts of five other counties in southeast Tennessee and three in North Georgia.
EPB, which began offering high-speed broadband in 2009, provides 30 Mbps service for $58 a month, 50 Mbps for $71 a month, and 100 Mbps for $140 a month (recently reduced from $175). Currently, 15,000 customers subscribe to at least one fiber optic service—television, Internet access or phone service—and 12,000 subscribe to the Internet service. The high-speed Internet service is piggybacked on top of the utility’s smart-grid network, the impetus for the initial fiber-to-the-home network.
According to the New York Times, the utility plans to charge $350 a month for its 1 Gbps service tier, a high-ticket price tag that will likely only appeal to a handful of businesses, even though the service will be offered to every customer in its service area. “We don’t know how to price a gig,” said Harold DePriest, chief executive of EPB told the Times. “We’re experimenting. We’ll learn.”
Currently, Hong Kong and only a few other cities in the world offer 1 Gbps broadband service. In the United States, Google is planning to offer 1 Gbps service to up to 5000,000 people, but the Internet giant has yet to announce the communities where it will install the service, or when it will begin laying fiber.
Crtics have questioned why EPB is offering such a high-speed service, when the cost seems to be preventive and 1 Gbps service is overkill for most business and residential users. “The simple answer is because we can,” DePriest told the NYT. “The overriding consideration is that this is a real tool for economic development for our community. It is the basis for creating the products and services of the Internet of the future. And it’s in Chattanooga today.”