Broadband Drives Economic Development

Chattanooga’s experiment with its own broadband network is helping to drive economic activity. More than 1,000 high-paying tech jobs have been created since the system launched…

Chattanooga has a publicly-owned high-speed fiber-optic network connection that is faster than most connections while at an affordable price. The city’s control over the technology resource has empowered Chattanooga to leverage its capabilities to attract businesses, drive job creation and boost economic activity.

The Goal

Chattanoogans pays less than $70 a month to support their fiber-optic network that transfers data at one gigabit per second, or 50 times the average speed for most of the nation. As a result of Chattanooga’s ultrahigh-speed network connectivity, many startups and IT experts have moved their business to Tennessee to take advantage of the resource and accelerate their growth opportunities, The New York Times reported.

The city accommodated the boom in the tech-savvy population by converting old warehouses and factories into connected networking hubs and loft office spaces. Because Chattanooga’s internet speed is only matched by the network in Hong Kong, talent, entrepreneurs and investors nationwide are flocking to Tennessee rather than Seattle, San Francisco or even New York where it may be costlier to open up shop. In the last three years, more than 1,000 tech jobs were created in Chattanooga.

Options For Growth 

Baltimore also owns its broadband infrastructure and is looking to expand its 25-mile fiber optic ring. The city has partnered with a broadband consulting firm to help plan and implement the overbuild of the network. Contracting with the consulting firm will cost the city an estimated $157,000 as officials strategize on how to extend and optimize its broadband infrastructure.

Currently, Baltimore’s fiber optic ring services the city’s public radio system. Once the expansion is complete, the city plans to lease broadband bandwidth to private internet providers and use the profits to reinvest in newer technologies to drive economic growth and job opportunities.

Of the city’s $40 million IT budget, $6 or $7 million may be allocated to new technologies that will make the city more appealing to technology talent, investors and business owners. The goal is to set Baltimore apart from other cities as a startup-focused community equipped with the necessary resources to help burgeoning organizations jumpstart their business.

Fighting Through The Red Tape

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance generated a map of the United States highlighting the communities that have access to the Internet from their city, similar to electricity. Unfortunately, 19 states have passed legislation inhibiting municipalities from building fiber optic networks – which may be a disservice to local residents and discourage businesses from creating local jobs. The majority of communities housing publicly-owned fiber optic networks are rural, small towns – with Chattanooga as the largest on the map. This may be the result of larger telecommunications providers taking a stance against publicly-owned networks in large markets where profits are high, and worry less about losing a small town customer base. To launch a successful, public fiber optic network, communities must place great trust in the local government and fight through corporate attempts at blocking the implementation.

Gotta Work For It

EfficientGov has followed efforts to engage the public in certain issues such as investment in new technologies.

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Barry Greenfield

Barry Greenfield is the founder of EfficientGov.com.