Affordable internet access bridges the ‘digital divide’
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- An Internet company has launched a 25-gigabit community service in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
- The company says it’s the first network of its kind in the US and is the nation’s fastest community-wide Internet service.
- The service is expected to bring better upload and download speeds, which can improve things like video conferencing or telehealth appointments.
It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s the nation’s fastest community-wide Internet service, and it’s coming to a Tennessee city and convention center.
EPB, an Internet, TV, phone and energy company in Chattanooga, has launched 25 gigabit per second Internet service for the entire community. The service will be available to all residential and business customers in the area and is operated by a 100% fiber optic network, EPB said in a press release on August 24.
“What we’ve done is basically install fiber throughout the community to the home and fiber to the business network, so every store, home and business has fiber going directly to the facility or home,” said J.Ed. Marston, the company’s vice president of strategic communications.
The move comes after EPB first launched its high-speed internet service in 2010 and then its 10-gig internet service in 2015.
The latest service to be launched covers a 600-square-mile service area, he said.
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Prices start above $1,000 per month for residents
EPB said it will charge $1,500 per month for 25-gig residential Internet service and $12,500 per month for business service.
“While 25 gigabytes is available to all business and residential customers in our 600 mile area, today it is best used in commercial applications with very high bandwidth needs (hundreds or thousands of simultaneous streaming devices),” wrote Sophie, PR specialist at EPB. Moore in an email.
The company expects the price to decline as the rest of the market catches up, it said.
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What does Internet of 25 gigabytes mean for the user?
The first site to have 25-gig service as part of a community-wide network is the Chattanooga Convention Center, EPB announced. It will allow thousands of visitors to connect electronic devices during events such as business conferences, electronic game competitions and live streaming events.
“People who attend conferences at the Chattanooga Convention Center … won’t have that experience that we’ve all had when you’re in a crowded place and you can’t get any signal, or it’s very slow and it dies before you can get a signal.” access the web page you want to see,” Marston told USA TODAY.
EPB said its 25-gig Internet service comes with symmetrical upload and download speeds. In other words, users will be able to download and upload high-resolution images and videos without any hassle.
The current FCC national standard for broadband bandwidth is 25 megabits per second for downloads and 3 megabits per second for uploads, Steve Corbató, executive director of Link Oregon, a nonprofit organization that connects the public and non-profit sectors to broadband.
One gigabit is equal to 1,000 megabits, so upgrading the standard to one gigabit could lead to a 40-fold increase in download speeds and more than 300-fold increase in upload speeds, he said.
Corbató believes the pandemic has revealed just how bad Internet access is in some communities, and service providers have historically not taken upstream bandwidth as seriously because they thought of the Internet as a way to simply “deliver content.”
“The speed of the connection really matters,” he said. “It really empowers people to have high-quality video conferencing. In terms of telehealth, it enables higher resolution images, which is important for remote diagnosis.”
A hotbed for inclusion on the Internet
Angela Siefer, executive director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, said Chattanooga has made its Digital Inclusion Pioneers list every year since it was launched in 2016. The list includes local government initiatives that promote digital literacy and broadband access for underserved residents.
The list is based on six indicators, including whether the local government has a digital inclusion plan and whether it has tried to increase the affordability of residential broadband service. Chattanooga has reached all six indicators, Siefer said.
“They think about it in a way that not everyone does,” he said. “(We’re concerned about) equitable Internet access, so we’re not too excited about the difference between 10 gigs and 25 gigs. What we’re excited about is everyone having access to whatever they need.”
The importance of internet connectivity and fiber optic networks
Corbató, from Link Oregon, said EPB is taking advantage of being the city’s power company. They have access to people’s houses through electrical feeds.
“By laying down the fiber, that makes the kind of natural increase in speed that happens as electronics get faster much easier,” he said. “I think cities that have abundant fiber, and in the case of homes that get fiber to the home, will be in a better position.”
He said the federal government is investing heavily in broadband, so similar projects could be springing up in other cities.
Some cities are already taking steps to improve their connectivity, he said, like Ammon, Idaho. In the 2000s, the city built its own fiber-optic cable network, allowing locals to get Internet access for about $9.99 a month, according to US News & World Report.
“It’s really important that all Americans get the level of Internet connectivity that allows them to participate in the digital society and the digital economy,” Corbató said.
Saleen Martin is a reporter for USA TODAY’s NOW team. she is from norfolk virginia – the 757 – and loves everything related to horror, witches, Christmas and food. Follow her on Twitter at @Saleen_Martin or email him at [email protected].