Commentary

Comcast To Roll Out Ultrafast Broadband In Chattanooga

Starting this June, Comcast intends to roll out its Gigabit Pro network, offering speeds of 2 Gigabits per second, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

That location is notable, given the city's combative history with Comcast.

In 2007, Chattanooga's Electric Power Board decided to move forward with an ambitious plan to build its own fiberoptic broadband network.

Several months later, Comcast, the incumbent provider, sued to prevent the buildout. Comcast alleged that the utility company was violating a state regulation by subsidizing the network with electric utility funds.

Comcast famously lost that battle, and Chattanooga went on to develop the first 1 GB broadband network in the country.

Several years later, however, Tennessee lawmakers passed new restrictions that limit other cities' ability to create similar networks. Those curbs -- and similar ones in North Carolina -- were invalidated in February by the Federal Communications Commission.

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But it's not yet clear whether the FCC will have the final word on the matter, given that Tennessee officials are appealing the agency's ruling.

Meanwhile, Comcast now says it will offer the 2 GB service to up to 200,000 Chattanooga residents starting in June, and will expand availability in the coming months.

That sounds like good news for Tennessee residents, although it's not yet clear how Comcast will price the offering.

Still, the development seems to confirm the obvious: Service improves when companies face competition.

Unfortunately, most people in the U.S. don't have many options for Web service at speeds of at least 25 Mbps -- the FCC's definition of broadband. According to the Commerce Department, fewer than four in 10 (37%) U.S. residents have a choice of two or more providers offering service of 25 Mbps.

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