Thursday, July 31, 2014 · 3:23 a.m.
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More than 100 people attended Wednesday's Spirit of Innovation luncheon, where leaders dubbed Chattanooga "Gig City." Staff photo. 

Chattanooga is the first and only city to implement a community-wide gigabit network and leaders want to capitalize on that head-start.

“Google, in Kansas City, is building a network the same level as we have,” Jack Studer with venture incubator Lamp Post Group said. “It’s not going to be done for a year to 18 months. They may also want to attract companies to come to Kansas City, but we’ve got a head start. In the tech world, one week is a big head start.”

Lamp Post Group is one of about a dozen public and private organizations that have come together to help make sure Chattanooga stays at the forefront of technology, innovation and economic development.

On Wednesday at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce’s Spirit of Innovation Awards, leaders unveiled an initiative to incite the development of high-speed Internet applications and business ventures.  

The plan, called “Gig Prize,” is a competition to develop the best business idea that utilizes EPB’s 1-gigabit-per-second Internet speeds.

“Chattanooga offers forward-thinking entrepreneurs a huge head-start in leading the next generation of Internet commerce,” Tom Edd Wilson, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, said. “The Gig Prize will provide the support and connections necessary to develop, prove and fund these paradigm shifting business models.”

Alcatel-Lucent is providing $100,000 in prize money for the the winner of the competition to invest in their idea in Chattanooga, Robert Vrij, president of Alcatel-Lucent Americas, said.

“We’re proud to partner with Chattanooga as this extraordinary city establishes a groundbreaking model for demonstrating the direct linkage between investment in telecommunications infrastructure and economic growth,” he said.

The Gig Prize idea started taking shape after leaders of business incubator Lamp Post Group announced a summer 2012 program for college students.

That program, called Gig Tank, aims to bring the brightest college students from around the country to Chattanooga to help answer the question, “What could you do with the world’s fastest Internet?”

The student who comes up with the best idea about how to utilize the 1-gigabit-per-second Internet network will win a cash prize of $50,000.

While the $100,000 investment is specifically for the Gig Prize winner to start a Chattanooga business, the winner of the $50,000 student competition can use that money toward anything they choose, Studer said.

He also said that he hopes to attract some of the brightest minds from across the country, including from Ivy League schools. 

“The business side of things is supposed to be a business that you can start tomorrow,” he said. “The students are thinking about stuff that might be 5 or 10 years out.”

Chattanooga’s high-speed Internet helps ensure that the business that comes from the Gig Prize program benefits the local community, Studer also said.

“Not only are the business ideas supposed to turn into a business, but because Chattanooga  is the only place with a network like that up and working,  they have to create the business in Chattanooga," he said.

Disclosure: Nooga.com is affiliated with the Lamp Post Group. Editorial decisions for Nooga.com are made independent of the Lamp Post Group.

On Wednesday at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce’s Spirit of Innovation Awards, leaders unveiled an initiative to incite the development of high-speed Internet applications and business ventures. Staff photo.
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