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Comcast launching 2-gig broadband to trump Chattanooga's municipal gigabit offering

With its 2-gig Gigabit Pro service in Chattanooga, Comcast is challenging the country's most successful municipal broadband project, which has long offered its residents affordable 1-gig internet speeds.

Comcast Chattanooga Tennessee 2-gig broadband municipal
Credit: Mike Mozart via Flickr

Comcast announced this morning that it will introduce 2 gigabit per second (Gbps) internet service to customers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, by the end of the year, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported today.

Comcast said it will begin rolling out its Gigabit Pro service in June, and will serve about 200,000 of the area's residents, whether they are currently Comcast customers or not, according to the report.

The service will challenge one of the most successful and well-known municipal broadband deployments in the country. The city of Chattanooga launched its fiber-optic internet service in 2008 under the city's Electronic Power Board (EPB), eventually offering residents 1 Gbps internet speeds for $70 a month or 100 megabits per second (Mbps) for $58 per month. Before long, Chattanooga earned the nickname "Gig City," and by 2013 those operating the EPB boasted that it had the "highest speeds in the Western hemisphere," both on its website and in a CBS News profile.

Like most municipal broadband projects, Chattanooga set out to launch its network after it became clear that private-sector ISPs were not going to invest in high-speed broadband service for its residents. The project has drawn many legal challenges since its inception, including a lawsuit from Comcast and state laws that impose restrictions on municipalities looking to provide internet services.

However, the Federal Communications Commission voted in February to overturn any laws that stand in the way of municipal broadband. The state of Tennessee is challenging the ruling, but state lawmakers have introduced their own legislation that would eliminate the restrictions on municipal broadband services, according to Ars Technica.

So, after losing the legal protections that could have helped Comcast and other private ISPs cut into the EPB's market, Comcast is offering a competitive service. Now Chattanooga's residents will have to choose between 1-gig and 2-gig broadband services – options that are available to few else in the country.

This isn't the first sign that the evolving U.S. broadband market is forcing Comcast to improve its services. Earlier this month, the ISP announced that it will begin rolling out its 2-gig Gigabit Pro service in Atlanta in May. Just over two months earlier, Google announced that it was bringing its $70, 1-gig Google Fiber service to Atlanta.

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