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Archive for February, 2015

The city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, developed its own broadband Internet service. Through the service customers can purchase a 1-gigabit connection per second for $70 per month and 100-megabit connection for $58 per month. The average US broadband speed is about 9.8-megabits per second for an average of about $47.50.

The Obama Administration and now the chairman of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, are proposing that access to the Internet be regulated like access to a public utility. The project in Chattanooga began in 2008 and uses infrastructure that was built to also route electricity. In many ways, broadband in Chattanooga is literally a public utility rather than just regulated like one. It provides much faster connections for about the same price.

This may be a good model for other municipalities. During the last eleven years various cities have attempted to make free Wi-Fi available for everyone. These attempts have been largely unsuccessful or the Wi-Fi has only been available at a few specific locations in the cities. There are three key differences between Chattanooga’s approach and these other attempts. First, in Chattanooga Internet access is not free. Second, the other cities subcontracted to private companies to provide Internet access. Third, these other cities were attempting to provide wireless Internet whereas Chattanooga provides wired Internet. Incidentally other ISP’s unsuccessfully sued Chattanooga to try to stop them from developing the service.

On a personal note, in the mid 2000’s I read about the SFLAN, a free “citywide” Metropolitan Area Network in San Francisco and was excited to try it. The only way I could get a connection was to take my laptop to my roof. On the roof, it took several minutes to open the home page of the New York Times. Despite the James Taylor song about the wonders of being on a roof, I decided that this was unworkable. 😉

More information can be found about Chattanooga’s network here:

http://money.cnn.com/2014/05/20/technology/innovation/chattanooga-internet/

Additional information about cities’ attempts to provide free Wi-Fi can be found here:

http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2013/07/wireless-networks

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