EPB Fiber Optics, the city of Chattanooga’s municipally owned fiber-to-the-premises broadband service, claims its newest iteration of free wireless service is the first in the nation to offer 1 gigabyte access speeds. EPB says the new service, announced September 13, is nearly 200 times faster than average download speeds for muni wi-fi systems nationally.
But that’s still much less than private-sector firms offer, notes Jim Lakely, co-director of the Center on the Digital Economy at The Heartland Institute.
EPB covers nine counties constituting 600 square miles and an estimated 100,000 homes and businesses.
In a press statement, Tom Edd Wilson, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said, “Chattanooga is light years ahead when it comes to providing ultrafast broadband. By offering the fastest available speeds to a whole community comprising a diverse population living in both urban and rural areas, Chattanooga has become the living laboratory for today’s innovations and tomorrow’s companies.”
EPB partnered with Alcatel-Lucent to accelerate buildout of Chattanooga’s 1G wireless service, which is 10 times as fast as the goal of the Federal Communication Commission’s National Broadband Plan, which aims to accelerate broadband speeds to 100 Mbps for 260 million U.S. households by 2020.
Private Services Much Faster
In response to the rosy assessment of the project’s proponents, The Heartland Institute’s Jim Lakely notes the Chattanooga claim is unimpressive given private Internet service providers offer much faster connections without using a dime of taxpayer dollars.
“Patting yourself on the back for having the fastest municipal wi-fi service in the country is a bit like bragging about serving the best gumbo in Buffalo,” said Lakely. “It’s just not very impressive.”
“One GB speed is something the market has been providing customers for years, yet only now can a government-run service catch up,” Lakely said. “That’s proof enough that government needs to stay out of the broadband business. It simply can’t compete with the market, and it shouldn’t be risking taxpayer money on a scheme that ends up the loser time and time again.”
Bruce Edward Walker ([email protected]) is managing editor of Info Tech & Telecom News.