The broadband ecosystem is buzzing today on news that Chattanooga’s EPB, a municipal FTTH provider, will begin offering a residential 1 Gb/s broadband service (that’s 1,000 Mb/s!), making it the fastest residential broadband service in the nation – by far.

According to the New York Times, EPB plans to charge about $350/month for the service. As an industry, we’ve been undergoing ‘my broadband’s bigger than your broadband’ battles for several years now, as telecompetitors look to outdo each other with faster and faster broadband speeds. Broadband is shaping up as the latest ‘does size really matter?’ debating forum. I can remember when 3 Mb/s was a huge step forward – and that wasn’t that long ago. EPB now offers a tier that’s 333X faster than that.

Does anyone need that speed today? Will they in the next few years? The short answer is no. It’s kind of akin to people in the U.S. that buy a Ferrari or Lamborghini – all that power and speed, and nowhere to really use it. A more apropos question, is how many people can afford it – especially in a city the size of Chattanooga?

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I love EPB’s CEO Harold DePriest’s response to the question of why 1 Gb/s? He tells the New York Times “The simple answer is because we can.” Which really sums it up, because there is no real business case, other than the notoriety and publicity it brings his company. There’s something to be said for that publicity – it’s free marketing and puts Chattanooga on the global map as a highly advanced and wired city. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Will there be a time when 1 Gb/s is an offer that is truly in demand? More than likely, although I still find it hard to imagine it being really necessary in a residential setting – I mean how many 3D movies can you watch at one time? Maybe a service that bursts to 1 Gb/s in times of need, but an always on symmetrical 1 Gb/s connection? Truth be told, no one really knows what the future holds, especially from a bandwidth demand perspective.

For now, I think EPB is quite content being way ahead of its time. After all, being a Ferrari dealer has its perks and there are always a few people willing to buy them.

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19 thoughts on “Chattanooga’s EPB Offers Residential 1 Gb/s, But Why?

  1. 1876 “The telephone has too many shortcomings…the device is inherently of no value to us.” Western Union

    1897 "Radio has no future" Lord Kelvin, President, Royal Society

    1899 "Everything that can be invented has already been invented.”Director, U.S. Patent Office

    1927 “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers

    1936 “Television won’t matter in your lifetime or mine.” Rex Lambert, Editor, Radio Tim

    1977 “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” Ken Olsen, Founder and Chairman DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation, now part of Compaq

    1981 “640K ought to be enough for anyone.” Bill Gates

    1. Love the list! Also reminds me of when I bought a 386 Packard Bell computer from Montgomery Ward in the mid 90's and the salesperson told me my 800KB hard drive was more than I will ever need!

      1. 1998 – Our company asks Qwest for DSL services to replace dial-up in our town so we can expand our company. We are told we are 'too small to consider for expansion since there will be no payback within 20 years'. We counter propose to build our own FTTH network. They laugh and call us nuts. Today we have 4,000 customers on a GPON FTTH at 15Mbps. They still have a few hundred dial-up users and no DSL.

      2. I think you meant 800MB, Bernie. Reminds me…I bought a 576MB drive in the early '90s and paid $1800 for it. Compare that to 1.5TB drives for $79 today!

    2. I get the point, however, it is getting to a threshold point. Families can only consume data at a certain rate. Why download all of Netflix and store it locally when you have reliable access to it? Can a user watch 20 HD movies at once? Perhaps the future will bring holographic gaming or some sort of Star Trek like virtual reality, but until then, most folks will buy a sturdy 10M connection for $40.

      1. Great thing is I have a sturdy 30/30 connection from EPB for 57$ They also offer 50/50 for 69$ In addition to there 100 and 1Gb services.

    3. A few more:

      1940s – I see a market for five, maybe six computers in the whole world.

      Thomas J. Watson, founder & president, IBM

  2. I don't disagree with you. Great economic development move. I think we can both agree though, for RESIDENTIAL service, this is a little overkill, for now and in the short term.

    1. Bernie, I didn't think we disagreed =)

      But I think the idea of "residential" vs "business" is somewhat fading. I work frequently from home. Thomson Reuters (major employer up here) wants all its employees to have 1Gbps to the home eventually (100 Mbps would be nice today) so they can be as effective at home as they are at the desk in the office (which they no longer want to build).

  3. Interested to know what they're doing with GPON to be able to offer 1 Gbps without oversubscribing – or maybe they are – need to read their TOS.

  4. Seems like a negative stance you're taking there :p

    Seriously though, Paxio has customers pulling down gigabit for $245 per month, and they've had those customers for awhile now. The difference between them and EPB is that EPB will be doing "gigabit to the sticks" whereas Paxio is an entity that does Ethernet to the Building. Different footprints.

    One way of thinking about the EPB advance is that, for $350 per month, there is no longer a dividing line performance-wise between your LAN and the Internet. Just like on a LAN, some devices can go faster than others, however having global connectivity at local speeds has mind-boggling applications. At gigabit speeds on an FTTH architecture, cloud computing "just works", as do any other crazy bandwidth-intensive services that people might dream up.

    You could argue that 100 Mbps is *plenty* for all of the above, to which I would agree, as long as you're "only" streaming 1080p video to one or two rooms in your house and doing nothing else with the connection. For those people, EPB offers cheaper connectivity. 100 Mbps is $140 per month, only a little more expensive than what Comcast charges for 50/10. 50/50 symmetric internet, which is the tier I would probably use day-in and day-out if I was in the area, is a mere $70 per month.

    So I guess the question is more about how *someone else* might use a gigabit to the home, rather than you. For folks like you who don't need a gig, there's a cheaper offering. For folks who want a crazy-fast internet connection, move to EPB territory and get one, then report back with what applications you're using on such a connection (super-high-resolution radiology images anyone?).

    One more thing: in some places a T1 connection is $350 per month…and that's cheap. EPB is now offering, for the same price, connectivity that is over 650x faster than that lowly T1. Heck, they've even one-upped themselves; a year ago 100 Mbps was the same price as gigabit is now.

    1. A few more things:

      1. EPB is offering gigabit to businesses as well. Pricing is unknown at this point but I'd assume it's pretty reasonable. Heck, doubling residential prices would still be reasonable compared to anyone else, including Comcast's 100M down, 15M up business cable tier ($380 per month). Again, "global LAN" connectivity at a reasonable price is the watchword here.

      2. As EPB adds to their infrastructure, opportunities will arise for nearby independent ISPs to take their bandwidth and run with it, as long as EPB lets them do so. Even selling 100M internet for $20 per megabit would revolutionize some of the adjoining areas to EPB's footprint, allowing wireless ISPs to deliver significantly higher-speed service than available before via expensive T3 lines or the like. Wireless providers could join in the fun as well, allowing for a high-bandwidth 4G overlay of EPB's network. I'm looking at you, Clearwire and T-Mobile.

      Last but not least, EPB can achieve exonomies of scale and sell bandwidth to neighboring cities, to be used to start fiber networkss of their own. Let the craziness begin…

      3. I'd expect Chattanooga to become a nexus of telecommuters, which tend to be high-value workers who don't put a strain on resources as much as standard folks do. They tend to be more progressive, drive less, and generally be good for the economic development of the area. Do you know what those folks would use for connectivity? Yep, 100M or gigabit fiber, subsidized significantly by their employer because $140 or $350 per month is a small price to pay for moving people out of the office.

      4. This is pretty much the TVA of the internet age. That's a good thing.

  5. Congrats to Tony, even 15GB/1GB for $24.90 per month blows away my cable Internet advertised at 16Mb/2MB yet throttled, restricted to less than 101Kbps/30Kbps, that I am paying $50 per month for. Even DSL at 1.5Mb/384Kb is 3 X faster than my throttled cable Internet. Let me know when you start offering bi-synchronous (same bandwidth upstream as downstream without throttling of bandwidth) and I will have my friend add you to the FTTH map: http://sn.im/1axal4

    What is it with posters only mentioning the high end costs for say 1 GB/1Gb at $100, $200, $300 or more. Especially when most companies offer lower cost – bandwidth options: Here are some examples that you can get today if you live in the right location: Greenlight: $34,95 10Mb/10Mb; EPB: $57.99 30Mb/30Mb; LUS: $28.95 10Mb/10Mb; Fibrant: $45.00 15Mb/15Mb. The point is, if you talk to any Cable or DSL consumer and they would be thrilled to have 10Mb/10Mb of unrestricted, net neutral, not censored FTTH bandwidth. Would I like more, you bet I would, but 10Mb/10Mb would be wonderful right now.

    Bernie you are so wrong about overkill for residential. If you are not a shill for the industry, than you are sadly uninformed and need to do allot more research. That mentality was inaccurate back in the mid 1990s when I was in the telco industry. Even back in 2006, the telcos knew the average family would consume at least 300GB per month of bandwidth (some have quoted as high as 600Gb); yet in their infinite wisdom (pun intended) what was the size of the bandwidth cap they(Comcast) first suggested: ONLY 50MB per month. More than a bit dishonest on their part, only after people screamed did they expand the bandwidth cap to 250MB. Should we be surprised that they chose a bandwidth cap that was less than what they knew and average family would consume in bandwidth per month…I am not, nor should you be. This is business as usual for telcos/cable companies.

    They make promises they have no intention of keeping.

    They pay politicians to turn a blind eye to their anti-consumer practices and broken promises.

    They always focus on creating a billable event, period.

    They always perpetuate the bandwidth scarcity myth. Always.

    They use their profits to legislate roadblocks to prevent competition. Thus preventing markets from working, there are no FREE markets.

    A single strand of fiber's bandwidth can be increased by 1024 times, without adding significant costs…

    We have known for over 6 years now that with the right hardware (fiber modem) on each end of a single strand of fiber, that the bandwidth could be increased to 1024 times. So in reality, with Fiber, bandwidth is honestly unlimited. If bandwidth is NOT unlimited, it has been engineered that way (look at Wireless 3G, 4G, etc..) on the part of the provider. Another thought: Why put in only one strand of fiber, why not blow 2 or 3 or even 10 strands or 100 strands and plan for future capacity, density. Honestly you will find that any provider will blow in extra “dark” fiber for future growth, thus they only dig once…its just smart business. They might not tell you that they ran more strands of fiber, but they most certainly do it. The biggest expense is the digging and laying of the fiber. It costs less than .50 cents per gigabyte to deliver after the initial costs of putting it in. So even at $20 per month, they are making millions, even billions in profit. Lets just be honest about it and cut the FUD. If they can not offer services cheaply, its because they used the wrong technological solution to prop up scarcity and tiered pricing, period. They have been doing this for over 30 years, this is not new information. Again, please be honest.

    Any solution other than Fiber, is in my opinion, an engineering event to maintain a failed tiered pricing model and force yet another billable event on a customer now or in the future. Can you say 3G, 4G, …how about 10G. I can put in a DD-WRT enabled firewall/router with WiFi in any location and serve more than 5 customers…the only limitation is bandwidth, period. More bandwidth, serve more customers. I can always add yet another DD-WRT (OpenWRt, Tomato) enabled device to serve yet more WiFi clients. What are the telcos doing, running out technologies that provide less bandwidth than fiber and using phrases that imply that some how they are equivalent, they are not. They can not be. They will never be able to provide as much bandwidth as fiber and the companies know this with absolute certainty. Funny how many refuse to offer Fiber until the local town folk rise up to provide it themselves and all of a sudden, we can provide that. Its been 30 years, your window has long sense closed, cut the crap.

    Where's the Fiber?

  6. Well the gig internet here in chattanooga is now down to 70 dollars a month. We only have two speeds to choose from. 100 megabits and 1 gigabit. And a quick speed test shows its solid reporting 100 meg up and down with only 4 miliseconds of latency. I love EPB.

    1. Thanks Ally. I'm curious to know what is the latency from chattanooga to amazon web services (AWS) datacenters in the US and beyond. If you could please check that and post the results here that would be great! It takes less than a minute – just go to http://www.cloudping.info/ and click on HTTP Ping. Thanks in advance.

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