Chattanooga gigabit internet enables local economy, shames internet behemoths

Al Jazeera reports about the City of Chattanooga’s super high speed internet that enables all kinds of new economic activity. It was the public local electricity company that laid fiber optic cables to transmit customers’ meter readings and at the same time provide high speed (one gigabit) internet connections to homes and businesses in the city.


The incumbent telecoms are trying to eliminate the competition. Comcast sued them twice, and state legislators are apparently thinking along the same lines – that the municipal electricity company has no business competing with telecoms as an internet access provider.

The article in Al Jazeera America: As Internet behemoths rise, Chattanooga highlights a different path

Some excerpts:

Chattanooga’s Internet, named the Gig, has won the small, postindustrial city a host of accolades and attention from the tech industry, entrepreneurs and the press since it was started as part of a project to modernize the area’s electric grid by local power company EPB in 2009.

Politicians have credited the Gig with creating upward of 1,000 jobs in Chattanooga, and some have even wondered if Chattanooga could be the country’s next Silicon Valley.

But perhaps the biggest challenge to the future of municipally owned broadband access is getting the idea past legislators and corporations used to the status quo.

Comcast has attempted to block EPB’s expansion twice, suing the company by saying EPB illegally subsidized its Internet service with money obtained through its electricity service. Those suits have been dismissed, but EPB is still facing an uphill battle from state lawmakers in its quest to expand service to customers just outside the Chattanooga city limits.

According to Michel Bauwens, commenting on a post in the P2P Facebook group, Chattanooga’s gigabit internet shows that “public provision (i.e. all of us) is much more efficient and cheaper than private provision of essential utilities” and he adds “I see it as a good example of the partner state, in which a public investment in civic infrastructure enables the rest of us to do our autonomous work better”.

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