Saturday, December 20, 2014 · 4:34 p.m.

Chattanooga's high-speed Internet serves as example for others

Wisconsin highlights Chattanooga's fiber optics

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EPB spokeswoman Deborah Dwyer said company leaders get inquiries from around the world about the fiber optics used here. (Photo: Contributed)

Some leaders in Wisconsin are envious of the Gig City’s high-speed Internet, according to an article in the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

The article uses Chattanooga as an example of how far Wisconsin has to go in the “technology race.”

And EPB spokeswoman Deborah Dwyer said company leaders get inquiries from around the world about the fiber optics used here.

EBP leaders have hosted groups from Ireland, New Zealand and Israel whose leaders wanted to talk to Chattanooga officials about local gigabit capabilities and other initiatives.

“We’ve heard from several area communities that are interested in bringing fiber optics to their residents,” she said. “At present, legislation doesn’t allow us to extend our service area, but if that ever changed, we’d love to help others enjoy what Chattanooga is.”

Bill Esbeck, executive director of the Wisconsin State Telecommunications Association, which represents more than 70 telecom companies in the state, said that many governments have failed in attempts to do what Chattanooga has done, and he said it comes at the taxpayers’ expense.

Dwyer said it took a citywide effort and collaboration from people in many different sectors to create the success in Chattanooga.

“The city of Chattanooga came together to think outside the box, and the benefits will be enjoyed by everyone,” she said.

But Andrew Petersen, spokesman for TDS Telecom in Madison, Wis., said that only large companies benefit from the full capabilities of a gigabit network.

But local leaders don’t agree.

“The benefits are far-reaching—everything from a significant boost to economic development (new businesses locating here), millions of dollars in cost savings to businesses each year (by reducing lost time and productivity caused by power outages), attracting top talent in the technology industry to live and work in Chattanooga, the added conveniences to residents’ personal and work lives, etc.,” Dwyer said.

According to a corporate site selection survey, high-speed Internet and cost-efficient energy availability rank in the top five site selection factors that business leaders consider, which puts Chattanooga in a “niche position” because of its infrastructure, she said.

And according to a report done by Dr. Bento Lobo from UTC, the net benefit to the county is nearly $1.5 billion, plus the creation of about 3,716 jobs.

“This ends up being a net benefit of about $3,500 for every resident in the county,” she said.

It’s important to remember that the original goal was for Smart Grid technology to reduce the impact of power outages in our community, Dwyer also said.

Leaders estimate that the Smart Grid technology means 40 percent less time without power and about $40 million in savings each year for businesses in the service area.

The Wisconsin publication isn’t the only one to write about Chattanooga’s technology.

The New York Times reported in 2010 that Chattanooga would have the fasted Internet in North America.

The Intelligent Community Forum also named the Gig City one of the seven most intelligent communities in the world last year.

And there has been a lot of publicity for The Geek Hunt, Dwyer said.

“The numbers definitely tell the story, but on top of that, the publicity generated for Chattanooga is priceless,” she said.

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