Chattanooga’s super-fast, economy-boosting Internet is about to become more accessible for residents.
This week, Mayor Andy Berke announced that Electric Power Board of Chattanooga, the independent city agency that brought buzzing browsing to the area, will offer 100-megabit-per-second service to low-income households for a discounted rate of $26.99 per month.
According to the Times Free Press, state regulations prohibit EPB from giving away the service for free since the utility is barred from operating at a loss or cross-subsidizing its services. The current rate for 100 Mbps service is $57.99. The discounted price is what it costs just to operate.
“I asked my accountants to calculate what it was going to cost,” EPB President Harold DePriest said. “We know there are about 21,000 students who get free or reduced-rate lunches, so we’ll just have to see what the response is.”
To qualify for the discount, the household must have a student eligible for free or reduced lunch. Comcast offers a similar discount to such families at $10 per month, but at 5 mpbs, download speeds that are a small fraction of what EPB’s offering. Late last summer, in the face of the (then potential, now failed) Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger deal, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio called on Comcast to offer up more equitable access for all. (He also noted that a “student reduced lunch” qualifier left the elderly out of such discounts.)
“We must make sure that as many Chattanoogans as possible have access to our game-changing infrastructure — our high-speed broadband network,” Berke said in his State of the City address. “We can’t leave behind Chattanoogans who simply want to worship together, learn together or celebrate together and simply need an Internet hookup to help them do so.”
Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.