Chattanooga taps into NGI

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"Internet, Act II"

Officials in Chattanooga, Tenn., are expecting a major boost to the city's prestige and its ability to recruit new businesses thanks to a deal struck recently with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to tap into the Next Generation Internet (NGI).

Oak Ridge and IBM Corp. are building what has been termed the world's most powerful computer, with the ability to operate at rates close to those of the human brain. It requires building a loop of the NGI that runs between sites at Oak Ridge and in Atlanta and passes near Chattanooga. The city's new mayor, Bob Corker, has arranged for the lab to provide an "offramp" that will give Chattanooga access to the NGI backbone.

With an announcement Oct. 29 that the city's local utility, the Electric Power Board, will donate two strands of a 60-mile dark fiber ring to help Chattanooga's economic development efforts, the scene is set to carry through on Corker's digital vision. Electric Power Board officials said they also will connect any businesses within 500 feet of the fiber ring at no cost.

Corker, who has been mayor for six months, ran for office partly on the belief that the city would be well-served by developing a strong digital vision, said Todd Womack, the mayor's communications director.

"Obviously, there are other broadband resources in the market," Womack said, "but in terms of any that are competitively priced regionally compared to, say, in Atlanta, there just aren't."

The combination of the free Oak Ridge link and the utility's fiber donation will greatly boost the city's ability to provide the kind of high-speed data infrastructure that modern businesses increasingly are demanding, he said.

It also will provide the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with access to resources that will enable it to do the kinds of applied research it hasn't had the capability of doing. That resource also will be appealing to the kinds of businesses the city wants to attract.

"We want to have Chattanooga become the jewel of the University of Tennessee system," Womack said.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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