Yesterday, a Business Insider article about us striking fear into the hearts of big telecom hit the front page. Although most people know about Google Fiber, many people don't know that we've had a fully functional, 600 sq. mile gigabit grid live since 2010.

 

The Gig City has become a hotbed of entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology investment - with a damn strong quality of life to boot. On Tuesday, we just wrapped up GIGTANK, the world's first gigabit startup accelerator, and we're getting fired up about our local Maker Faire, held in mid-October. There's a palpable energy here, and we're proud of what we've accomplished - but we're just getting started!

 

Here is some more information that you might be interested in:

 

This AMA is being powered by:

  • Andy Berke, Mayor of Chattanooga
  • Harold DePriest, CEO of EPB (and a brilliant engineer, to boot)
  • (Bijan Dhanani, local entrepreneur helping moderate the AMA)

 

We will start answering questions around 1pm EDT - Ask Us Anything!

Edit: Thanks guys! This was awesome! Mayor Berke and Harold DePriest really enjoyed this. If you would like to connect outside of this thread, shoot us an email at [email protected]. We look forward to talking to you!

Comments: 1613 • Responses: 61  • Date: 

whand1368 karma

How can I help free America from big ISPs?

TheGigCity1582 karma

Support what is being asked of the FCC currently by supporting municipal broadband!

They are currently considering an application from us to allow us to expand beyond our current boundaries and work with our neighbors.

Terrific_Tyler1019 karma

Hello! My name is Tyler, and I am the Executive Director of Launch Fiber (www.launchfiber.com). It has been my mission since January of 2014 to help bring fiber optic internet to Huntsville, Alabama and Madison County. My work has seen a lot of progress, but we would not be where we are today without your hard work and dedication.

I have a list of questions:

  • What was the biggest challenge in getting started?

  • If you had any tips for your neighbor city (Huntsville), what would they be?

  • How willing was the local and state government on working with you to get this utility completed?

  • Do the financials make sense?

  • What are some of the biggest benefits, other than faster speed, that you've seen?

I am so proud of you guys for all the hard work you've done, and I hope to see your progress echoed here in the Tennessee Valley.

distanceovertime587 karma

These are the type of answers that we are actually after. Reddit is known for it's circle jerks and this is becoming one.

TheGigCity991 karma

u/distanceovertime - totally - we'll connect with him offline but here are some answers to those specific questions:

Challenges: researching the right technologies, timing, internal cultural, willingness to be very innovative, forward thinking, and willing to take risks. People (and giant corporations) are going to take shots at you.

Tips: Don't hire a consultant to come in and build it for you. Once they leave, its tough. Make sure you've got people on the ground who know how to build and operate it. Make your people the experts.

Gov't: Local and State here were great, and continue to be great. Their cooperation was crucial.

Financials: If they didn't make sense, there's no way we would have done it. We had a conservative plan, and we're seeing results beyond what we had hoped.

Benefits: Other than faster speed and a much better electric grid - an enthusiasm, energy, and community movement to make Chattanooga kick even more ass

Arandmoor77 karma

How is the installation of the fiber network affecting the Tech industry in Chattanooga? Like, in a general sense.

TheGigCity204 karma

Along with a direct economic result of 1000+ jobs added, the energy in this city is undeniably on fire. Our tech startup scene is thriving.

One example is GIGTANK where Demo Day had over 900 attendees with over 120 investment firms represented

StrangeWill98 karma

This is a question many of us may be interested in (which is why it's upvoted so much), it's best to answer it here.

TheGigCity123 karma

Totally - we came back and answered them - see above!

CrickDean39 karma

We know you probably don't have time to go into full detail with all of these big questions but simple answers or even links to more info on these topics would be super cool!

TheGigCity65 karma

Yep, we came back to it

Windmarble571 karma

Are you in favor of Net Neutrality?

TheGigCity983 karma

YES. We strongly support it.

TheGigCity1893 karma

One other thought: if you have enough bandwidth, there's no need to ration it...

PreviousOwner481 karma

A question from a new resident that just moved from San Diego, to Chattanooga -- & brought my web hosting business with me:

  1. The fiber installation, is it underground, or is it run along the power lines?

  2. I am also wondering if there could be an initiative to reenable those WIFI devices that were originally geared towards police officers, and, open them up to EPB subscribers to use wifi city-wide (or, where available). I'd consider paying extra for this. One of the cities I've lived in before offered city-wide wifi., and it was a great way to get people outdoors (and downtown).

  3. I'd love to contribute more to fund homes that can't necessarily afford gigabit, is there some pool we could all contribute to & offer a lower priced package based on street, perhaps?

TheGigCity476 karma

Awesome! Welcome to Chattanooga! 1. 85% is overhead, 15% is underground 2. We're always looking for ways to use the existing mesh network. 3. Get in touch with the Enterprise Center - they work on digital inclusion. I like where your head is at! Thanks for being willing to pitch in!

malvarez97451 karma

Can you take over my city? Feel free to use force if required!

TheGigCity672 karma

*Commencing feasibility study

karmanaut353 karma

When establishing it, what were your interactions like with comcast, time warner, etc.? Did they try to stop it from happening? If so, how?

TheGigCity784 karma

There were two main interactions. Our last mayor asked big telecom if they would bring gigabit to Chattanooga - and they said NO.

Lawsuits followed.

We won.

DuhTrutho200 karma

Considering many here would love to do the same when their telecom in the area say NO to gigabit, how exactly did the process of lawsuits go? Is there a site with info on this already available because I know several towns and cities don't go for gigabit because they are told no.

I'm really excited as you are setting precedent on how to get rid of Comcast's and other ISPs "service". If you go into detail about how exactly you defeated big telecom in your area, many local governments elsewhere will have a blueprint on how to do it plus pressure from their citizens who want more than 3mbps for $70 a month.

TheGigCity339 karma

Lawsuits were based on notion that the business would fail and that the electric system would have to subsidize the failure.

In our case, the fiber revenues are flowing to the electric system to the tune of $21 million this past year

DuhTrutho166 karma

Promise of revenue is certainly a great way to get many cities moving towards fiber! Thank you for the specific and excellent figure. Is there a record of the lawsuit available that we can read?

TheGigCity226 karma

Unfortunately not, but this white paper talks a lot about the process: http://www.ilsr.org/broadband-speed-light/

DuhTrutho144 karma

This is the second best thing I could have hoped for, thank you very much for the information!

For those of you who want to read Broadband at the Speed of Light located in the link, here is the direct pdf: http://www.ilsr.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/muni-bb-speed-light.pdf

TheGigCity86 karma

Thanks for the direct link!

MoosePancakez319 karma

Are you using your beautiful grid to answer these questions?

TheGigCity404 karma

Yep - The Gig is at City Hall!

t-richards239 karma

Mr. Berke and Mr. DePriest,

I live in Cleveland, TN, and I am rather dissatisfied with my current internet service provider. The fact that they're legally allowed to call it a service brings great sadness to my heart.

I have a few friends in Ooltewah, TN that absolutely love their EPB service. I spoke with some EPB representatives and they informed me that EPB is not able to provide internet service in my area due to legal restrictions of some kind.

Is this information about legal restrictions accurate? If so, what can I do to help change this legislation and bring real internet service to the Cleveland area / rest of the US?

TheGigCity348 karma

I, Mayor Berke, would like you to move to Chattanooga! In all seriousness, the legal restrictions are real. You can support EPB's petition filed with the FCC to extend beyond current boundaries.

Makeshift_Hammer98 karma

https://www.epb.net/downloads/legal/EPB-FCCPetition.pdf

link taken from this page.

is that it? i noticed you forgot to add the link to your comment. if this isn't it, i'm sure someone will add it here.

TheGigCity96 karma

That is a summary report of the petition that we submitted, but not the link where you can comment. We will follow up with that shortly.

bitshifts_be_crazy200 karma

How do you convince lawmakers such as Marsha Blackburn (from TN, to boot). that they're on the wrong side of the debate here? Do we re-frame municipal broadband as being 'pro-business?'

TheGigCity343 karma

Its pro-business.... because it is bringing business to Chattanooga! Simple stuff.

KarlHjalmar186 karma

What would you say to the people that believe it's unfair for private companies to compete with a public utility?

TheGigCity709 karma

It is unfair - they have way more money than we do.
We believe that this is critical infrastructure for our community to thrive and grow. Many people might consider things like roads as critical infrastructure, but we include this as one of those things.
If the private sector won't bring it to local communities, local communities should have the right to build it for themselves.

MrHobbes82126 karma

First off let me just say that the speed test result is very sexy.

Would something like this be only available to larger commercial areas with big business or would this eventually be able to spread out to residential areas as well?

TheGigCity169 karma

As of today, we've got 4300 residential customers who have gigabit connectivity.

passiontiger74114 karma

Were you able to fund the entire project with local funds or did you use some grants or federal money to get the grid system up and functioning?

TheGigCity177 karma

We funded about 3/4 of the project with local funds. 1/4 of the funds came from a DOE grant from the federal stimulus package.

distanceovertime85 karma

Put some dollar amounts on this, please. Percentages don't paint the whole picture.

TheGigCity229 karma

About $73 million was grant money, and about $229 million was money that was borrowed and paid for with revenues.

CrickDean83 karma

Thanks for the follow up! Was that able to cover the whole city?

TheGigCity138 karma

Yep, 600 square miles

midwesterner64106 karma

[deleted]

TheGigCity211 karma

We've had more than 1000 jobs created as a result of the gigabit infrastructure. Almost all companies, whether explicitly a tech business or not, are attracted by our gigabit system and large capacity it gives them.

Additionally, our smart grid provides electric power redundancy at no additional cost. Power is extremely reliable here!

Apps_N_Zerts41 karma

Can someone explain "power redundancy"? Sounds interesting.

TheGigCity112 karma

Redundant power supply is basically a backup that is running simultaneously. IE if one source gets knocked offline, the client does not experience an outage because the backup picks up where the primary source left off.

Geminii2728 karma

Are there plans to reach out to tech firms across the US to see if they'd be interested in opening an office locally, given the multiple advantages?

TheGigCity51 karma

There is certainly an ongoing effort to recruit both new businesses and help existing businesses grow their operations here in The Gig City.

Fortunately, the value speaks for itself and many companies who are interested in relocating reach out to us, instead of the other way around.

TheBroAbides103 karma

Serious question: Would you rather fight 1 horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses???

TheGigCity631 karma

Thank you for this lovely question.

While we won't engage in violent encounters, we can certainly help livestream such a battle. In fact, we've used SCIENCE to expand on exactly how many of your magical creatures we could livestream: http://i.imgur.com/xijc0QT.png

Spartacus71456 karma

CAN I GET A BEST OF!

TheGigCity65 karma

That would make our year

cinematicals93 karma

I'm a college student and aspiring entrepreneur from Chattanooga. I'm in love with our EPB service! It makes my life as a computer scientist student so much easier. What advice do you have for someone who wants to build a tech startup in Chattanooga?

TheGigCity109 karma

The Gig City is an amazing place to start a company. Get in touch with The Company Lab, Lamp Post Group, SwiftWing Ventures, and all the other awesome community resources. The Chamber is also a great resource for local entrepreneurs!

TheGigCity84 karma

Check out www.noogastartups.com for a listing of other people who are doing what you're doing!

tacothecat92 karma

Has Mayor Dean up in Nashville reached out to you all about interest in the grid?

TheGigCity127 karma

Nashville is looking at Google Fiber and we've have had discussions with Mayor Dean's office around the benefits of super-fast internet.

slobmarley84 karma

What's it like to be forward thinking? Can you teach Cincinnati how to not suck?

TheGigCity119 karma

It takes all of our time to make sure that we don't suck!

H4nd5omeR0b72 karma

Are there any future plans to leverage the grid for city-wide wifi?

TheGigCity80 karma

We are looking at how to expand internet capacity for all Chattanoogans and use all our assets to bridge the digital divide. Wi-fi could play a part in that.

Gnostic_Mind55 karma

How hard was it to get this done, in regards to red tape?

Been wanting a project like this in the Detroit area for years. Good job on getting it done.

TheGigCity67 karma

It took about 6 months to get beyond the red tape to begin build out. That 6 months actually ended up being useful to get the community on board.

justinhunt8655 karma

[deleted]

TheGigCity99 karma

Many cities have come here to visit us. We support them in any way we can. We WANT other cities to have gigabit connectivity. The more gigabit cities, the better (more apps, more collaboration, more opportunity).

Internet speed, over the last 25 years, has proven to be a MAJOR driver of economic development.

amtant54 karma

What can ordinary Chattanoogans do to help allow EPB to expand beyond Hamilton County?

TheGigCity78 karma

Comment on the FCC petition. Talk with your local TN legislative delegation.

We're following up with the link to the petition shortly!

GoldenStateLTD50 karma

Pardon me boy, Is that the Chattanooga choo choo?

TheGigCity65 karma

Indeed. Indeed it is.

Tai1547 karma

I have your internet at home, and I absolutely love it. Thank you for allowing me to tell Comcast where to they can stick it.

Question though, you guys also offer TV through your fiber lines. Really, the only thing I want is Comedy Central for the Daily Show. Do you have any plans to offer al carte plans on the TV so that I don't have to pay for all 78 channels to get the one I want?

TheGigCity87 karma

We support the idea of a la carte programming, but content providers unfortunately control that issue!

thedenofsin42 karma

How do your citizens get connected to your internet? Do they pay service fees?

TheGigCity65 karma

Yep! They pay a monthly fee.

donnerkebabparty39 karma

[deleted]

TheGigCity123 karma

Everyone who lives in Chattanooga has a pure heart and a gentle soul.

dontcareaboutnames37 karma

Assuming that you can get the FCC to aid you in expanding the EPB Fiber into surrounding areas how long would it take for you to begin the process and to finish it?

TheGigCity58 karma

It'll probably take us longer to get through the FCC ruling and legal battles than to build out the network(s).

jwyche00832 karma

How awesome are you guys? (I have to ask a question)

Thank you for everything you do

TheGigCity64 karma

We're pretty awesome. And humble ;)

distanceovertime31 karma

Is your company not-for profit, non-profit or a for-profit company? Do you have a board that residents vote and elect too?

How do you plan to improve revenue over the coming years? Once you have the assets installed and paid for, considering the churn of residents adding and removing services income will eventually plateau without expansion. Do you intend to deploy fiber to neighboring areas and slowly increase your area of influence? What will stop you from becoming the very companies you are competing against?

TheGigCity56 karma

We are community owned, not-for-profit. But we are most certainly not-for-loss.

We do have a board, appointed by the mayor.

We plan to grow revenue primarily by new products, but also customer acquisition.

ERIFNOMI31 karma

Was the city a largely technology heavy city before, or just your average city that attracted people and businesses due to the rather unique internet situation?

TheGigCity54 karma

We've seen a huge growth in our tech industry, particularly entrepreneurship, being at the front of the curve, rather than the rear.

a_guile29 karma

Can I buy you a beer?

TheGigCity83 karma

Politicians don't drink. But engineers do ;)

Floydthechimp23 karma

This is great! I hope more cities are as proactive in seeking technology as you guys. Some questions on the financials:

Did you issue city bonds to pay for the setup costs or did you use a tax surplus? Is this being paid back by users?

What kind of adoption rate have you seen? And what rate do you need to stay above water?

TheGigCity55 karma

We did electric system revenue bonds - no tax money, period.

We're currently at 50% market adoption rate. We broke even when we surpassed 29%.

Floydthechimp36 karma

Wow! 50% is great and well into the black as well. Would you like to be president of the internet?

You got my vote.

TheGigCity49 karma

So many election cycles..

johnnydv119 karma

Mayor Berke, I saw you this morning at my son's pre-K graduation. Thank you for supporting the Chambliss Center - I know from experience that it's likely the best non-profit in Chattanooga.

As for a question, have any you spoken with either Rep. Chuck Fleischmann or his opponent Weston Wamp about where they stand regarding EPB's petition?

TheGigCity25 karma

First of all, you have one of the cutest kids in the world, because all of them were incrdible! Second of all, no.

thedenofsin6 karma

Did you levy some kind of special assessment tax?

If so, how much was it per person, roughly?

TheGigCity12 karma

No. It is paid for by the people who use it.

Komrade_Karl6 karma

So the $300m+ rollout was not funded by the local tax payers?

TheGigCity9 karma

Nope, see previous answer with specific dollar amounts here

Edit for clarification: tax dollars weren't used. Tax payers, ie paying customers, did fund.

AznMango965 karma

How much money did it cost to build this network? Do you think it's economically feasible for big cities like NYC, Chicago, etc. to pursue such a network?

Also, congratulations on your victory against big telecom companies, hopefully your initiative can inspire the rest of the nation to escape the tyranny of Comcast/Time Warner/etc. :D

TheGigCity13 karma

The fiber network to serve 600 square miles and 175,000 homes and businesses cost just over $300 million. Every city, especially big ones, has its own set of financial and legal barriers - that is tough to answer!

monksunited4 karma

As someone from a 3rd world country, how long will it take for Gigabit internet to reach us?

TheGigCity14 karma

That is a tough question to answer. What I can tell you is that we've had visitors from all over the world specifically to learn about our grid - over 20 countries.

Acekiller1214 karma

What was your biggest challenge in establishing yourself as a provider against the big ISPs? As a bonus question: I, living in Los Angeles, is there anything I can do to help your cause to push fiber optics?

TheGigCity6 karma

See previous answer about challenges (and more) here

suddenlyissoon3 karma

With all the attention to the Internet side of things, do you worry about falling behind on the TV side? I have had EPB internet since the moment it was available in my area but I've held off on swapping my TV service since there were so many limitations of the system (only being able to watch/record 2 HD streams for example). Will this change in the future so I can (happily) give EPB more of my money?

TheGigCity4 karma

We've upped that to 4 HD streams, about 430 channels and 130+ are HD.
Give us a shout and we'll talk about it!

two_off3 karma

What are the other, lesser-known benefits that the city gets as a result of the network?

TheGigCity9 karma

One way is that it is helping our electric power grid tremendously. Check this out

marvin_sirius2 karma

Boulder's fiber network is called BRAN1. Do you wish that your city had come up with a name that was more punny?

  1. Not available for residential use.

TheGigCity7 karma

What?! Why do you gig us like that?? Upping our comedy live streaming game as we speak.

steve5820 karma

Ask you anything? what 1950s soul group for VJ records started out in Chattanooga, TN?

TheGigCity1 karma

The Impressions!

curlyfries84-1 karma

Mayor Burke, As a recent past resident that was lucky enough to escape the crime, rampant drugs and mostly unfriendly citizens, how and what do you propose to do to bring a better atmosphere to this city with the mass advertising of internet speeds. obviously people will be intrigued about the speeds, but what then? are there any initiatives in place to actually help the scores of people who wish to bring commerce to the area but only to find so many loopholes to fall through or are we just focusing on the people who move to Chattanooga with hefty bank accounts. If carefully thought out this could easily be a great thing (besides just the bragging rights that have been liberally used for so long). The curiosity is more for the benefit of possible new residents as Chattanooga and it's departments have failed me, my friends and numerous other people already making us take our now thriving businesses to another state that was genuinely welcoming to our ventures.

TheGigCity4 karma

I am sorry that you had a bad experience :( We are at our lowest level of unemployment in 6 years, lowest rate of foreclosure, and just had 2000 jobs announced two weeks ago by VW. While we certainly are not a perfect city, we are fast becoming the best mid-sized city in the country!

slobmarley-7 karma

Why did you prioritize internet over healthcare and other needs? Do you think you're dispelling the myth that everything government run is sucky and inefficient?

TheGigCity1 karma

We don't prioritize internet over other needs. More of our budget goes towards public safety, proportionally, than ever before, in the history of our city!

el_crunz-11 karma

Much respect. On a scale of 1-10, how much do you guys like chorizo sausages?

TheGigCity1 karma

Berke: I'm jewish... DePriest: love sausage!