EPB officials said they can give all their customers faster Internet because their business is solid, and local leaders talked Tuesday about the details of high-speed Internet and what it means for residents and business owners.
"Pretty much for anybody who develops a product, it's going to cost a whole lot to get those first products to market," EPB spokesman John Pless said. "Once you know the product is accepted and people are buying it, the cost goes down drastically."
Leaders announced Tuesday morning that—to commemorate fiber optics' fourth birthday—they are giving residential customers access to higher-speed Internet for no extra charge.
By Oct. 1, EPB will no longer have Internet speeds lower than 100 megabits per second. Click here to read the details of the upgrade announcement.
Officials said that all business customers will be upgraded to at least 100 mbps and can choose from other offerings up to a gig.
But the pricing will vary depending on how much bandwidth the business uses, Pless said.
Last year, there was controversy about how much the gig costs for some small businesses that use Internet.
"Pricing for their services is based on several variables connected with their business needs, bandwidth requirements and contracts," Pless said.
How is EPB able to offer higher speeds?
In the past four years, since EPB fiber optics launched, some factors have changed that now allow leaders to give these faster speeds, officials said.
The company's leaders got a better deal on bandwidth from wholesale providers, in part because their product is more well-established. So leaders had a better bargaining position, Pless said.
Gig means 1-gigabit-per-second Internet speeds, which is equivalent to 1,000 mbps.
He also said that leaders are saving money because they have learned how to manage the system more efficiently.
In 2010, when EPB rolled out the gig, leaders had to make educated guesses about pricing and the effect that gigabit users would have on the performance of the entire network.
But now, leaders are more confident about all those details and can change offerings and pricings.
Pless said that EPB doesn't measure how much data customers use in an average month because there is no cap on the amount of data that can be used.
How will the upgrade impact EPB residential and business customers?
Some customers who are getting an upgrade may not be able to fully experience the high speeds if they don't have the appropriate wireless router, Tom Hoover, associate vice chancellor and chief information officer at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, said.
Customers can look at their routers to see what speeds it can handle.
Pless said that just about any computer and router bought in the last year can probably handle the 100 mbps speeds.
And wireless technology isn't yet able to transfer gig speeds, so Pless said the best way to get the gig is to be connected directly through the computer.
"We bring a gig into your home, and it's really up to your equipment as to your actual speeds," he said.
Hoover said that the higher speeds will allow consumers to stream videos without buffering delays. For the typical user who doesn't require a lot of bandwidth, there may not be a noticeable difference in speed, but faster is better, he said.
And in the bigger picture, faster Internet speeds open up a lot of potential, he said.
For example, UTC leaders might be able to add distance learning and videoconference options using high-speed Internet.
And it gives business leaders in Chattanooga a leg up on their counterparts in other cities because they will have the potential to leverage the technology, he also said.
"It definitely increases the value of Chattanooga," he said. "I think this will continue to be a destination place for technology."
Entrepreneur Bogdana Rakova, chief technology officer for a new local business called HutGrip, said that high-speed Internet is helping her company.
The city's gig is part of what brought her and her company to Chattanooga.
HutGrip is cloud-based software that monitors manufacturing processes, so leaders manage their processes and predict and prevent equipment failures.
"The fiber optics can bring not only the speed but the reliability and the efficiency that people need," she said.
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