One Gbps Internet speed is a reality in Chattanooga
Sept. 20, 2010
by Mark Ollig

How long would it take to download a 1GB (gigabyte) file from the Internet if you lived in Chattanooga, TN?

Using the city’s new cutting-edge 1Gbps Internet service and under perfect end-to-end conditions, about eight seconds.

Imagine being able to download a gigantic 1TB (terabyte) data file in only 2.2 hours.

The good folks in Chattanooga, TN now have access to “ultra-fast” 1Gbps (one gigabit-per-second) Internet speeds.

To understand just how fast 1Gbps is, imagine having a 1,000Mbps (megabits per second) connection to the Internet from your computer.

Today, the speed spotlight now shines on Chattanooga, TN, as this city has begun offering its residents and businesses the fastest Internet broadband service in the country.

The city of Chattanooga set a precedent and became the first city in the US to make available one gigabit-per-second Internet symmetrical speeds to 100,000 of the 170,000 citizen homes and businesses in the area Sept. 13.

“Internet symmetrical,” in this case, means the data uploaded to, and downloaded from, the Internet will occur at roughly the same speed.

By the end of 2010, all the homes and businesses within a 600-square-mile service area will have full access to the 1Gbps service.

Having access to a 1Gbps high-speed fiber-optic connection to the Internet doesn’t come without a price.

A Chattanooga resident can have what’s called “Fi-Speed Internet” at 1Gbps for $349.99 per month.

For a business, they could pay as high as $2,000 a month for 24/7 guaranteed availability with backup routing redundancy.

My old computer’s central processor would have an internal-core meltdown trying to handle that much broadband speed; however, today’s modern personal computers can work with 1Gbps.

It has been 25 years since I used 1200 bps (bits per second) modems. At that time, 1200 bps was thought of as “high-speed.”

Even 15 years ago, your former “WBBS OnLine” sysop’s 9600 bps dial-up modems used for public access to his computer bulletin board service, were considered fast for transmitting data.

I need to keep reminding myself it is 2010.

Chattanooga’s municipal-owned fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) company is called EPB Fiber Optics.

EPB (Electric Power Board) Fiber Optics operates their high-speed fiber-optic network infrastructure utilizing technology over a gigabit passive optical network (GPON).

I learned the city’s equipment/technology provider is Alcatel-Lucent.

By providing 1Gbps Internet broadband service, Chattanooga is now ten years ahead of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.

The FCC plan calls for most of the US to have Internet access speeds of 100 Mbps by 2020.

“With access to the fastest broadband speeds in the United States, Chattanooga represents the next frontier in communications technology, with limitless potential for new applications for education, entertainment, health care, industrial development, and more,” said Harold DePriest, president and CEO of EPB.

“The quicker connections are achieved primarily by stringing high-speed, fiber-optic cable directly into homes and businesses. Most cities connect homes to a fiber optic network with copper wires, which slow the transmission speed,” DePriest said.

While writing this column, I received a reply message on Twitter from user “ChattanooGig” which is the official Twitter user name for EPB’s Chattanooga 1Gbps service.

My question to them was, if there were any monthly GB (gigabyte) usage “capacity limits” with their 1Gbps service.

The reply I received read, “Fi-Speed Internet 1,000 [1000Mbps or 1Gbps] offers usage up to 150 gig per month. Customers will have the option to use more for a fee.”

EPB’s all fiber-optic GPON network not only provides incredible high-speed Internet access, it also provides the network for their commercial electrical power “Smart Grid” system.

The Smart Grid is anticipated to provide greater operational efficiency and more effective online power management tools for the city’s electric utility customers.

Funds to build the 1Gbps Internet network were facilitated in part by a $111 million grant the city received from the Department of Energy.

Twitter users can follow Chattanooga 1Gbps tweet messages at http://twitter.com/ChattanoogaGig.

The city of Chattanooga’s 1Gbps website is http://www.chattanoogagig.com.

With all this talk about Chattanooga, I keep hearing a particular 1941 song playing in my head.

“Pardon me boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo-Choo?”

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