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Chattanooga is probably better known from the song immortalised by Glenn Miller. Up until recently, that was probably it.

The US recession hit Chattanooga hard.  Since 2010, the region’s job growth trailed the US average. There has been growth in the service and manufacturing sectors.

Something else has happened in Chattanooga. It has become “Gig City”.  A joint venture between the local city council and the electricity company has built a gigabit fibre optic network.  The US has a patchwork of internet access.  Areas where it is profitable are well connected. Others have adequate broadband and other a have practically none at all.  Chattanooga boasts internet speeds 100 times the average.

Fast internet and cheap housing is a good way to lure the geek economy.  It seems to be working. It has lured businesses like Amazon and Volkswagen.  Tech start up Iron Gaming sprang up in Chattanooga. Something that would probably have never happened several years ago. Fast broadband has made it possible.

Gig City has not been without difficulties. The city has been the subject of legal challenges by telco giants AT&T and Comcast.  They have been insisting that public funds not be used to fund expansion of public networks in competition with private ones.  And their lobbying has worked, with 18 US states now having passed laws blocking community-built fibre networks.  Even Chattanooga itself has been stopped from expanding into a neighbouring county after lobbying by the telcos.  This is a shortsighted approach that ensures money stays with the telcos.  The benefits of Chattanooga’s fibre broadband are the people and it follows from that the local economy.

Fast broadband has had direct benefits for Chattanooga. This is a lesson the current government needs to heed as it considers the future of the NBN.

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Gig City Chattanooga

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