The southern city of Chattanooga, Tennessee, with a population of about 170,000, boasts internet speeds up to a whopping gigabit per second, thanks to a local municipal fiber internet network, and has since last year. That's the same speed as Google Fiber, only there's no legacy tech giant pumping technology into the project.
The city of Chattanooga and the publicly owned electric utility EPB did it by themselves.
Big telecom companies like AT&T and Comcast put off plans to outfit southeastern Tennessee with high-speed internet, essentially forcing the city to look for internet solutions elsewhere, Motherboard reports. This is actually a trend. Though Chattanooga's internet is notable for its blinding speed, many small communities around the country are similarly taking on high-speed internet without the help of big-name ISPs.
In fact, often the ISPs are holding these neglected communities back. In 2011 Longmont, Colorado, passed a ballot referendum that lifted a 2005 state law stopping municipalities from selling services that rely on publicly owned infrastructures, the Denver Post reported. Cable companies like Comcast originally pushed for the law in 2005 because they felt it was "unfair to let tax-supported entities compete with tax-paying businesses," the Post said.
More than 20 states still have laws like this one on the books, Motherboard reported. The FCC recently said it would help small communities get past these laws if it meant faster internet for them. This was in June.
Earlier this month, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) proposed an amendment that would make the FCC's move illegal. Almost every House Republican voted yes. Now the amendment is in the largely Democratic Senate where it's not likely to pass but still could, perhaps with a little help from big cable companies.