Gigabit Nation Takes the Chattanooga Choo Choo to the Internet’s Future

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The citizens, businesses and institutions of Chattanooga are living the Vita Gigabit, and loving it. It’s been just a short time (September 2009) since EPB, the city’s public utility, rolled out their fiber network. And an even shorter time since they began offering gigabit service over the network in September 2010. But the impact is far reaching.

James Ingraham

Jim Ingraham, EPB’s VP of Strategic Planning, has been in the thick of things since the beginning of the project. He led the development of the network’s business plan. On Gigabit Nation’s inaugural broadcast (7/27 2:00 p.m. EST), we’ll discuss:

1)    how EPB came to focus on smart grid as a main application of the fiber network, and what are the economic development implications of this decision;

2)    what are some of the cool uses and benefits of the network to date; and

3)    does the mesh network riding over the fiber have the potential to deliver on the dream of municipal wireless from several years ago?

EPB Fiber Optics has accomplished a lot in under two years. Their service area covers roughly 600 square miles, and currently they serve nearly 30,000 residential customers and nearly 1300 business customers. Their footprint includes most of the Chattanooga metropolitan area and parts of surrounding counties, so their one network is covering both rural and urban.

Though there are critics of municipal broadband who would have you believe these networks are never successful, EPB had its first profitable month 18 months after launching. With all investment variables aside, it should start generating enough revenue to sustain operations by 2012. What’s more, EPB will capture millions of dollars is cost savings thanks to significant operational improvements. In the world of public-owned broadband, Chattanooga is not a fluke. Over 130 muni networks are fully operational and doing well.

While gigabit speed has brought Chattanooga national fame and a fair amount of interest from abroad, EPB’s service offerings begin at 50 Mbps symmetrical.

Jim manages the Strategic Research Division. His responsibilities include managing electric rate modeling and analysis, public policy research, business planning and strategic business development projects, grant development, and both electric and communications industry market research. In addition to leading the business planning project team, Ingraham led the EPB team that won a DOE Smart Grid Investment grant. He has 23 years management experience in the utility industry.

Hiawatha Broadband Communications is the August sponsor of Gigabit Nation. If you’d like additional information on the applications running on Chattanooga’s network and their impact, check out this article and this one at GigaOm, one of Gigabit Nation’s media partners. The show’s other media partners are Broadband Communities Magazine and Muniwireless.com.

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