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Chattanooga Aims to Win Digital Dash

EPB, a city-owned utility, is expected to announce an initiative that will make Chattanooga, TN one of the world’s leading cities in digital speed. According to a report in today’s New York Times, EPB at the end of this year will begin offering ultra-high-speed Internet service of up to 1 gigabit a second, about 200 times faster than the average broadband speed in America and ten times faster than the national goal recently set by the Obama Administration.

Chattanooga will be the first U.S. city to enter the warp-speed broadband sweepstakes, joining a handful of cities worldwide, including Hong Kong. ”This makes Chattanooga — a mid-sized city in the South — one of the leading cities in the world in its digital capabilities,” said Ron Littlefield, the city’s mayor.

According to the Times, the highest-speed service will be priced at $350/month, which will likely appeal to businesses but may prove a bit steep for residences. The 1 gigabit service will be offered to all of the 170,000 homes and businesses EPB serves. EPB CEO Harold DePriest termed the price point “experimental” because no current business model exists for pricing lightning-fast broadband.

Earlier this year, the Obama Administration set a national goal of bringing broadband to 100 million homes at speeds of at least 100 megabits a second by 2020, about a tenth of the speed Chattanooga says it will have up and running by the end of the year.

Google, which pledged to supply service of 1 gigabit a second to 500,000 people in the U.S., currently is evaluating applications from about 1,100 communities, including Topeka, KS, which changed its name to Google, KS for the month of March to draw attention to its interest in the program. The Internet search giant is expected to select one or two of these locations later this year.

Chattanooga’s move is part of the Tennessee city’s push for high-tech economic development, assisted by federal stimulus funds. Previously, the city won an $11-million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to accelerate its smart-grid project.

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