EPB's gigabit challenge to Comcast, AT&T a win for Chattanooga, exec says

EPB workers install fiber optic cables in Chattanooga. The utility's 1 Gbps buildout has spurred competition from incumbent providers in the city. Image: EPB

Comcast may have been one of the most vocal opponents to the FTTH moves by Chattanooga, Tennessee-based utility EPB, but the cable MSO's efforts over the past year to wire the city with fiber-based 2 Gbps services for residential and businesses is giving customers more choice.

While Comcast has not revealed how many customers have signed up for its 2 Gbps service in Chattanooga -- a much smaller market in comparison to other ones it serves like Chicago -- its moves are a likely response to EPB’s efforts to offer the community 1 Gbps and even 10 Gbps fiber-based services.

Comcast has increased its network investments and launched new products in the city, including Gigabit Pro, Comcast’s 2-gigabit internet service, and installed hundreds of Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots in its markets. Gigabit Pro is a FTTH-based service, which requires a special installation at the home.

The cable MSO has been no less aggressive on the business front. In June, Comcast Business completed a multi-million dollar fiber optic network across greater Chattanooga capable of delivering up to 10-gigabit speeds to local businesses.

Even though Chattanooga is not a Tier 1 city, Comcast and even incumbent telecom AT&T are bringing better broadband into the area, responding to a competitive environment.

“One of the things we saw early on is that Comcast brought all of their newest technology to the marketplace,” said Coleman Keane, director of fiber technologies for EPB, during a press event at the company’s headquarters. “We were fifth in the country get their DOCSIS 3.0 deployment so they upgraded their networks significantly once we started deploying.”

Keane added that because of the competition between AT&T, Comcast, and EPB, consumers and businesses have more choices for TV, internet and phone service providers.

“This means everyone in Chattanooga wins because you have two really good networks running,” Keane said.

But the benefit of having an array of higher speed options from more providers is also stimulating Chattanooga’s economy.

Since EPB introduced its 1 Gbps capable network in 2010, it has helped generate at least 2,800 new jobs and added at least $865.3 million to the local economy, according to an independent study by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

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