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Internet 2.0 Comes to Chattanooga

So far, more than 5,200 Chattanooga residents and businesses have signed up for the Internet service, linking the Gig City with other smart cities, Internet developers and research institutions.

by Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times / March 9, 2015
Chattanooga, Tenn. Flickr/Bryce Edwards

(Tribune News Service) -- Chattanooga led the nation in bringing the fastest Internet speeds to an entire city when EPB pioneered gigabit-per-second Internet service along its fiber optic network in 2010.

So far, more than 5,200 Chattanooga residents and businesses have signed up for the blazing-fast Internet service, which is about 200 times faster than most other broadband service.

In addition to those signed up for the gigabit-per-second Internet service by EPB, more than 65,000 other Chattanoogans are subscribers to other EPB FIber services, including cable TV, telephone and other broadband Internet options.

While EPB expects to net nearly $13.2 million of income this year on $111.7 million of sales from its fiber optic network, city boosters see an even bigger payoff for other businesses, especially from linking the Gig City with other smart cities, Internet developers and research institutions.

In what is being billed as "Internet 2.0," Chattanooga and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga were recently connected to a nationwide network of 60 research universities, including many that are exploring data transmission and computer technologies that will need the Gig to distribute information to end users.

In partnership with US Ignite and the Enterprise Center, UTC recently acquired and activated a GENI (Global Environment for Network Innovations) rack that links Chattanooga with high-speed Internet connections to others across the country.

"It's another step in helping us to be a global leader in this technology so the potential is huge," said Ken Hays, president of the Enterprise Center, a nonprofit group that is trying to capitalize and market Chattanooga's Gig service. "This is really the next generation of the Internet. The GENI rack will connect us to the best and brightest researchers and could make us a living laboratory for new innovations and products that use the Gig."

Mike Bradshaw, executive director of the CoLab, told business leaders last week that the new Internet connections will help broaden the appeal of Chattanooga's unique status as the first city in the Western Hemisphere with Gig connections to every home. As Google and others expand Gig service in other communities, demand for Gig-based technologies will grow and Chattanooga should be well positioned as a test site for new Gig ideas and concepts.

"After several years, we're no longer going to be the only house on the block," Bradshaw told entrepreneurs last week during the CEO Series organized by the Tennessee Small Business Center. "We have an opportunity over the next several years to serve as a model home for other communities around the country that are going to enjoy this network. It's a tremendous business opportunity for us and the university."

EPB pioneered the first citywide gigabit-per-second Internet service in September 2010. While Google has added Gig service in Kansas City and Austin, Texas, -- and other municipal power companies have added some gig connections in Tennessee and other cities -- Chattanooga remains the biggest citywide Gig city in the Western hemisphere.

Bradshaw, who helps coordinate the summer Gig Tank competition among entrepreneurs brought to Chattanooga to try out the Gig, said the GENI rack will enable Chattanoogans and Gig Tank participants this year to develop, test and provide feedback on advanced next-generation applications in education, health care and public policy.

Being connected to the GENI rack will allow virtually instantaneous web links across the country for simultaneous music or film production, telemedicine or data-based research from multiple cities.

UTC Chancellor Steve Angle said the intercity links with other universities should also elevate UTC's computational engineering and other research initiatives.

"We expect this capability to accelerate our efforts to match UTC researchers with those in the best research universities in the country," he said.

One of the advantages of the GENI racks is the ability to isolate or wall off sensitive traffic on the web. For example, the network can be configured to provide secure gigabit channels for telemedicine, Hays said.

Chattanooga was one of the first cities to use telemedicine by transferring medical images to radiologists at their home at night and on weekends. The GENI rack could extend that idea nationwide.

"We are receiving many inquiries from leading-edge researchers who seek a critical mass of gigabit users," Hays said. "With the GENI connection, we will be working with such researchers across the country focusing initially on smart grid, additive (3-D) manufacturing and health care services."

During a recent appearance at the Tennessee Aquarium, Ranger Rick used the GENI network to present digitized, 3-D shapes of his animals. Students watching in Chicago could control their vantage point, looking up, down and around the animals shown, Hays said.

Sending a complete description of the scene 30 times per second required nearly a gigabit of bandwidth to the Tennessee Aquarium, the Chattanooga Public Library and the local STEM high school.

GENI is supported by the National Science Foundation as part of its initiative to support an national architecture for sharing advanced applications that require symmetric gigabit speeds (both uploads and downloadss), advanced local cloud computer (known as locavore computing) and software-defined networking.

"We look forward to connecting other cities to Chattanooga and research universities via the GENI network so that new public-benefit applications can be developed collaboratively and shared for the benefit of many of the current set of US Ignite cities," William Wallace, executive director of US Ignite, said in a statement.

©2015 the Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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