EPB of Chattanooga’s gigabit broadband infrastructure has generated $2.69 billion in economic benefits to the community during its first decade of operation, according to a gigabit economic benefits report from the Rollins College of Business at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
The study, which was conducted by Bento Lobo, Ph.D., head of the Department of Finance and Economics, identified five ways in which EBP of Chattanooga has benefited the community:
- The infrastructure created and retained 9,516 jobs, which is about 40% of jobs created in Hamilton County during the study period.
- The project kept unemployment down. This is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic. The network enabled businesses to transition quickly to remote work. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the county’s unemployment rate in November 2020 was 4.7%. That’s a lower rate than the state of Tennessee overall and also lower than in the U.S. overall (5.3% and 6.7%, respectively).
- The project has helped educate the economically challenged, which should yield future gigabit economic benefits. EPB and Hamilton County Schools used the network to support HCS EdConnect, which is providing broadband Internet to economically challenged families with K-12 students for free. More than 12,000 students currently are using HCS EdConnect.
- The network has led to a 40% to 55% annual decrease in outage minutes due to storms. This has led to an average annual savings of $26.6 million due to reduced spoilage, a minimized impact on productivity and other impacts.
- Reduced truck miles and demand management have cut carbon emissions by 7,900 tons.
“The true economic value of the fiber optic infrastructure for EPB’s customers is much greater than the cost of installing and maintaining the infrastructure,” Dr. Lobo said in a press release about the gigabit economic benefits report. “Our latest research findings show that Chattanooga’s fiber optic network provides additional value because it provides high speeds, with symmetrical uploads and downloads, and a high degree of network responsiveness, which are necessary for the smart grid and other cutting-edge business, educational and research applications.”
In July, 2020, a report from US Ignite and Altman Solon found that 8% of U.S. markets well-served with broadband are municipally enabled. There are five models to doing this. By far the most dominant approach, at 68%, are networks that are owned and operated by the city or utility company and serve end users themselves. EPB is an example of this approach.