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August 16, 2012

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In a note of cruel irony last week, Gig City became just Ordinary Internet Speed City. Even as the Gig Tank—a group formed to reward contestants with financial backing for creating the best businesses applications to use the city’s vaunted gigabit Internet speeds—prepared to hand over it’s $100,000 top prize, Craig Settles struggled to access the high-speed connection even in the heart of EPB’s downtown headquarters.

Settles, host of the Internet radio show “Gigabit Nation,” came to Chattanooga to broadcast his program using the gigabit connection and discuss its speed and power. Problem was, he couldn’t connect.

As reported in the Times Free Press, Settles struggled to access the gigabit connection as airtime grew closer. Even settled in EPB’s nerve center, however, Settles had to eventually settle for a lower speed wireless connection.

We point this out to bring up the disconnect between the highly publicized service and end users. The price of gigabit service alone from EPB costs $350 per month—a cost that allows only less than 20 businesses and less than a dozen residential users to afford its lightning-fast speeds. Elsewhere, Google is offering a gigabit connection to residents of Kansas City for 20 percent of EPB’s charge, or around $70 per month. The divide? As an EPB spokesperson noted, the utility doesn’t have Google’s bottomless wallet.

But even at that price, everyday users would notice little difference in the speed. The speedy service demands the type of applications that businesses can use to offer faster, better service, such as Gig Tank top-prize winner Banyan’s cloud-based system that allows researchers and universities to more easily share information. Even sexier projects such as the social gaming experience another winner created remain out of reach while EPB’s charge remains so high. In the meantime, Gig City is, to most, a mirage. —Bill Ramsey

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August 16, 2012

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