September 3, 2013 By John Jung
In 2011 I visited Chattanooga, one of ICF’s Top 7 Intelligent Communities for an ICF site visit. Frankly, I had visited Chattanooga a couple of decades earlier and wasn’t impressed then, but today I was blown away. The winds of change had been kind to Chattanooga. But the new kinds of speeds being discussed in Chattanooga today are daunting by any measure.
Across the shining boardroom table, Harold DePriest, the President and CEO of the Chattanooga-owned Electric Power Board (EPB) beamed as he told me the history of the EPB and their decision to be North America’s first Gigabit City. Propped by a stimulus grant of $111 million from the Department of Energy to accelerate the project, EPB began formulating plans for a Smart Grid network more than a decade ago. According to Mr. DePriest, Chattanooga's Smart Grid runs on a 100% fiber optic network, upon which EPB were able to add two-way communications up and down the grid not only at the smart meter but also to each of their 170,000 home and business premises. “Our three main goals for the $300 million investment in the network were to modernize our electric power infrastructure, generate the revenue for it to pay for itself and then most importantly to be a catalyst for economic development.”
Mr. DePriest proudly positions Chattanooga as the grandfather of Gigabit networks since its deployment was in 2009, well before others. City fathers saw the city-owned network more than just the city’s smart power grid saving $100 million each year from power interruptions. Mr. DePriest and other civic leaders saw it as a springboard to Chattanooga’s future able to attract and retain talent and investment in new tech companies, promoting economic growth. To build on this, Chattanooga rebranded itself as “Gig City,” and to gain acceptance and develop new end-user applications it hosts an annual Gigafest.
Across the globe Japan, Korea, UK and others are now deploying efforts to become true Gigabit cities in the likes of Chattanooga. Asian cities and even whole nations are planning to be fully Gig-enabled. China is positioning itself to launch Gigabit speeds in key urban areas by 2020 and US Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski has raised the innovation and job-creation bar by calling for US cities in 50 States to be Gig-enabled by 2015.
About the Intelligent Community Forum
The Intelligent Community Forum is a think tank that studies the economic and social development of the 21st Century community. Whether in industrialized or developing nations, communities are challenged to create prosperity, stability and cultural meaning in a world where jobs, investment and knowledge increasingly depend on advances in communications. For the 21st Century community, connectivity is a double-edge sword: threatening established ways of life on the one hand, and offering powerful new tools to build prosperous, inclusive and sustainable economies on the other. ICF seeks to share the best practices of the world's Intelligent Communities in adapting to the demands of the Broadband Economy, in order to help communities everywhere find sustainable renewal and growth. More information can be found at www.intelligentcommunity.org.
Robert Bell is co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum, where he heads its research and content development activities. He is the author of ICF's pioneering study, Benchmarking the Intelligent Community, the annual Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year white papers and other research reports issued by the Forum, and of Broadband Economies: Creating the Community of the 21st Century. Mr. Bell has also authored articles in The Municipal Journal of Telecommunications Policy, IEDC Journal, Telecommunications, Asia-Pacific Satellite and Asian Communications; and has appeared in segments of ABC World News and The Discovery Channel. A frequent keynote speaker and moderator at municipal and telecom industry events, he has also led economic development missions and study tours to cities in Asia and the US.
ICF co-founder John G. Jung originated the Intelligent Community concept and continues to serve as the Forum's leading visionary. Formerly President and CEO of the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance and Calgary Economic Development Authority, he is a registered professional urban planner, urban designer and economic developer. He leads regular international business missions to US, European, Asian, Indian and Australian cities, and originated the ICF Immersion Lab program. John is a regular speaker at universities and conferences and serves as an advisor to regional and national leaders on Intelligent Community development. The author of numerous articles in planning and economic development journals, he has received global and Toronto-based awards for his work in collaboration and strategic development and sits on numerous task forces and international advisory boards.
ICF co-founder Louis Zacharilla is the creator and presenter of the annual Smart21, Top Seven and Intelligent Community Awards and oversees ICF's media communications and development programs. He is a frequent keynote and motivational speaker and panelist, addressing audiences of tech, academic and community leaders around the world, and writes extensively for publications including American City & County, Continental Airline's in-flight magazine and Municipal World. His frequent appearances in the electronic media have included both television and radio in South Korea, China and Canada. He has served as an adjunct professor at Fordham University in New York and is a Guest Lecturer at Polytechnic University's Distinguished Speaker Series. He holds a Masters Degree from the University of Notre Dame.