- Associated Press - Monday, September 13, 2010

CHATTANOOGA, TENN. (AP) - Chattanooga’s city-owned electrical utility has started offering an Internet service that is among the fastest in the world, and it is hoping the move will attract businesses looking to relocate.

The Chattanooga Electric Power Board’s new Fiber Optics network will provide a 1 gigabit-per-second Internet service. The utility said the service is more than 200 times faster than the average national download speed today.

At a cost of $350 a month, it’s also much more expensive than the typical residential plan. Harold DePriest, the Chattanooga Electric Power Board’s president and CEO, said residential customers don’t really need that fast a service, but businesses might.

He said the high-speed service won’t be costly for EPB to operate, yet it should put the Chattanooga community at the forefront of attracting businesses _ possibly Internet providers _ that can benefit from having it.

Chattanooga represents the next frontier in communications technology, with limitless potential for new applications for education, entertainment, health care, industrial development and more,” DePriest said in a statement.

The Chattanooga utility is working with telecom equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent SA on the project.

DePriest said the fast Internet service is immediately available.

DePriest said providing the high-speed Internet service is part of the utility’s $37 million fiber-optic network venture.

EPB provides electricity, television, telephone and Internet service to more than 169,000 residents in a 600 square-mile area in southeastern Tennessee and northwest Georgia.

In a community with a new Volkswagen new assembly plant and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s SimCenter computational engineering lab, Mayor Ron Littlefield said the Internet service announcement has helped put Chattanooga “on the short list of progressive communities in the world.”

“It’s a great place to imagine the future,” Littlefield said at a news conference Monday.

He said Chattanooga would “welcome Google or any other technology company” that would be interested in using such a high-speed Internet system.

Google Inc. earlier announced plans to select one or more communities for a 1 gigabit network by the end of this year and spokesman Dan Martin said there have been about 1,100 responses. Martin declined comment about the planned service by Chattanooga’s EPB.

“We’re excited to see enthusiasm for ultra high-speed broadband,” Martin said in an e-mail statement. “It’s clear that people across the country are hungry for better and faster Internet access.”

Verizon Communications Inc. in August said it had tested 1 gigabit service on its network but the company hasn’t announced any plans to sell it.

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