While Nashville residents await the introduction of Google Fiber, their fellow Tennesseans a couple hours away in Chattanooga will be getting access (if they can afford it) to broadband that’s ten times faster than Google’s top-speed.
Chattanooga was already a leader in high-speed broadband with its city-owned EPB gigabit Internet service. But this week, it announced that 170,000 residents will be able to upgrade to 10 Gig NextNet service — that’s 10 gigabits per second — if they can handle the $299/month price tag.
While that’s a lot of money, we should point out that it’s the same rate that Comcast is eventually going to charge for its 2 gigabit service that it just happened to announce in Chattanooga earlier this summer.
To start, Comcast will only charge $150 for its high-speed service, but that does not include the hefty installation fees. Additionally, the only people initially eligible for Comcast’s 2 gigabit broadband are those within one-third of a mile of the company’s existing fiber network. The EPB service does not charge for installation and there are no cancellation fees for terminating service.
EPB currently charges $70/month for gigabit broadband, the same as Google has been charging in the cities where it’s launched.
The Chattanooga municipal broadband service is at the heart of a legal and regulatory controversy. State law prohibits a city-owned utility from offering telecom services outside of that utility’s electric service area.
In 2014, Chattanooga was one of two cities that petitioned the FCC to intervene and overturn those laws, saying they violated the FCC’s obligation to encourage broadband deployment. Thus, EPB can sell high-speed service to Chattanooga residents, but not to other communities that were willing to pay for it.
The city said at the time that “advanced telecommunications capabilities, including high-speed broadband services, are not being deployed on a reasonable and timely basis in communities near EPB’s electric service area because of the territorial restriction.”
Then in Feb. 2015, the same day that the FCC voted to approve the new net neutrality rules, it also sided with Chattanooga in determining that the state law was too restrictive.
The FCC ruling is now a matter for the courts to decide.
In September, little Salisbury, NC, claimed it was the first U.S. city to offer 10 gigabit city-run broadband.