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Is EPB’s Gig Service a Hoax?

October 5, 2012

In Utah, there is UTOPIA, the debt-plagued government-owned network that has failed to attract as many subscribers (and therefore revenues) as promised.

In Chattanooga, there’s … a MIRAGE?

Well, it’s actually called the city’s Electrical Power Board’s (EPB) one gigabit service, but the other name, it seems, would fit. For a few years now EPB has been advertising one gigabit broadband service for the astonishing price of $300 per month. (Unsurprisingly, like UTOPIA, EPB has also struggled to find subscribers.)

But, according to an editorial yesterday in the Chattanooga Times Free Press that price was not accurate.

Or, it was accurate – so long as subscribers to the service promised not to use the full gigabit capacity. The Times Free Press relates the story of Iron Labs, a new video gaming business in Chattanooga:

“Iron Labs recently opened its doors on Chestnut Street, less than two blocks from EPB’s palatial $26 million downtown headquarters. Besides hosting video game tournaments and providing multiple stations where customers can play the latest video games on the newest consoles and computers, the facility also functions as a cyber café. … When Aaron Welch, the force behind Iron Labs, asked to partner with EPB to showcase the gig Internet service in his business, the electric company told him to buzz off. When he then offered to purchase the gig at the advertised small business rate of $299.99 per month, EPB again refused, claiming only companies that could never actually use a gig were eligible for that price.” (Emphasis added.)

If you thought $300 was astronomical, just wait … the price EPB wants companies that will actually use a gig to pay?

$50,000. Or, as the Times Free Press says, “An outrageous sum for a small startup.” (The fee to subscribers is on top of the portion they pay through taxes for the $552 billion network.)

The editorial speculates whether EPB actually has the capability to provide gigabit service to anyone. The editors write, “What if it’s all a hoax? One big fat lie? What if EPB can’t actually provide a gigabit of constant Internet service?”

Where did Iron Labs turn after it learned the true price of Chattanooga’s government-owned network?

The private sector. The Times Free Press said a private provider could provide the capacity Iron Labs needed at a “reasonable rate.”