Take the Chattanooga Choo Choo to Broadband’s Future

“Chattanooga is what the Internet will look like in 10 years. We’re 10 times faster 10 years sooner than the goals established in the National Broadband Plan.”  Harold DePriest, President – EPB.

My May broadband site visit to Chattanooga was very enlightening. Something akin to time travel as I got to see some interesting applications made possible by a highspeed fiber network that’s now capable of delivering a gigabit per second of Internet access speed. This is what most of the U.S. could look like in 5 or so years if we could just get the big telcos out of the way.

In my report I wrote for GigaOm, I tried to condense details on some of the coolest applications so readers can get a sense of the future.

Two of these really have city workers abuzz. The first is a fleet of wirelessly-controlled helicopter drones, each with dual wireless video feeds. These allow workers to view remote, inaccessible and/or highly dangerous situations from the safety of their vehicles. Additional software analyzes video images to distinguish between, say, ducks on the water and floating trash without workers having to monitor the video feeds.

The second is a special imaging program that can scan and upload 3-D images, then create static holograms similar to those in the Star Trek episodes. Within 10 minutes, a portable device scans 300 yards in all directions vertically and horizontally, and wirelessly uploads one aspect of a building, crime scene, etc. All aspects of a “target area” are combined into one file. Chattanooga’s City Hall, for example, required six scans to capture the entire building, and the combined file held seven billion data points.

Investigators sitting in their cars can wirelessly access a crime scene file, interview a witness and based on the witness’ details, accurately plot the witness’ location in the file for the district attorney to pull up in court. The application also creates a 3-D hologram. (read the full article)

Part 2 of my report dug a little deeper as I looked for lessons to extract from Chattanooga for other communities that want to follow their path.

“This network is as important as anything we’ve done,” says Mayor Ron Littlefield. “The community itself is catching on to the value of the network in bits and pieces.” And how do you rally constituents to support an initiative involving technology many don’t understand? “We started by showing people how to solve common problems. That engages them. Then we show them how to tackle specialized problems. This makes them loyal supporters.”

EPB expands and strengthens community support with frequent briefing and brainstorming meetings with various stakeholders. Constituents keep up to date on developments and contribute a steady stream of ideas for network applications. These tactics cement customer loyalty even under an onslaught of competitive assaults. It’s impressive listening ideas build on each other as people hear about a particular feature or new application. The level of buy-in and word-of-mouth translate into significant revenue. (read the rest of this article)

If you’re one of my readers from Chattanooga, I’d love to get your impressions on what life is like and how things are better now that you’re working/playing/living in a gigabit world.

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