Newly-released, independent research documents $2.69 billion in community benefit during the first ten years since EPB of Chattanooga built America’s first Gig-speed community-wide network and used it to establish the nation’s most advanced smart grid power distribution system.
Here’s how they come up with that number…
Key Community Benefits from Chattanooga’s Advanced Infrastructure:
- Job creation and retention: The fiber optic infrastructure directly supported the creation and retention of 9,516 jobs which is about 40% of all jobs created in Hamilton County during the study period.
- Lower unemployment rate: According to the study, since Chattanooga’s fiber optic network was deployed, it has helped keep the local unemployment rate lower. This effect has been magnified since the outset of the COVID crisis when fiber optics helped many businesses transition their employees to remote work very quickly. According to the latest available numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Hamilton County’s unemployment rate was 4.7% in November which is significantly lower than Tennessee’s rate (5.3%) and two percentage points lower than the U.S. unemployment rate (6.7%) for the same period.
- Bridging the digital divide for education: Having Chattanooga’s fiber optic network in place allowed EPB to join with Hamilton County Schools and other local and state partners in launching HCS EdConnect, a fiber optic broadband internet service provided at no charge to economically challenged families with K-12 students. Designed to continue providing the service for at least 10 years, HCS EdConnect represents a lasting solution for bridging the digital divide among students. Currently more than 12,000 students have internet access to continue their studies from home through HCS EdConnect.
- Reduced power outages: Related to the smart grid’s ability to quickly re-route power around storm damage and other problems, the study documents a 40-55% annual decrease in outage minutes providing EPB customers with an average of $26.6 million in savings each year by helping them avoid spoilage, lost productivity, and other negative impacts.
- Decreased environmental damage: The smart grid has helped EPB decrease carbon emissions by 7,900 tons through demand management and reduced truck-miles.
- $110 million in Smart City research: In 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy designated Chattanooga as a Smart Grid Living Laboratory. Since then, EPB has partnered with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and a range of other national and local research partners, like the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Center for Urban Informatics and Progress, to play a significant role in more than $110 million in Smart City Research.
It’s hard to put your arms around the benefits of a broadband network. How much do I save doing my banking online rather than drive to the building? I save time and gas. My work is entirely online – how much do I get paid. Just two examples. Now multiply that by households throughout a community and think about every occasion during the day you save/make time and money by going online. Ironically, this is easier to do during a pandemic and never have we missed going to the bank more – but you get what I’m saying.
It’s helpful to see how Chattanooga has done this and it’s amazing to see the results. Ten years gives enough time for the statistics to catch up to the street value.