You may know Chattanooga as “Gig City”, a nickname earned because of its fast community-wide internet speed and growing tech business community. But you may soon know it as a hub for quantum computing and emerging quantum technologies.
The city, with the help of its local universities and its local electrical company, launched Gig City Goes Quantum this month as an initiative to prepare and educate the community on the emerging quantum technology sector and ensure that the city’s infrastructure is ready to build such a future. This is all in preparation for America’s first industry-led, commercially available quantum network being built in the city and launching this summer.
This network will allow private companies, governmental organizations, and university researchers to run quantum equipment and applications on an established fiber optic environment.
Right now, the focus is on making sure Chattanooga’s business community is ready for the quantum future, says Jim Ingraham, VP of Strategic Research at EPB.
“The internet we have right now is based on uncompressed sound and streaming video. When the internet got started, it was based on photography and printed text. Now, we’re moving towards a virtual world,” he told Hypepotamus. “The Internet Age is now moving towards a new digital age based on qubits. And qubits are created by quantum networks and quantum computers. They have an infinitely larger capacity to process data than the computers of today do. The difference between the computers we have today and the quantum computers we will have in 10 years is the difference between a crack in the sidewalk and the Grand Canyon. And we want to be ready in Chattanooga to build the quantum internet when that technology is ready for market.”
To celebrate World Quantum Day from April 14 – May 31, Gig City Goes Quantum is engaging people of all ages to complete at least 1,000 different learning activities to help Chattanooga residents better understand what quantum is and how it will impact the business community in the coming decade.
Several videos are already online for those interested in learning from leading scientists and researchers in the field.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is also creating a quantum-focused curriculum to ensure students are prepared to build in the new quantum age, showcasing just how important the city is taking the move to quantum.
Why Chattanooga Is Uniquely Positioned For Quantum
Behind the quantum push is a multi-million dollar investment from EPB and a partnership with West Coast startup Qubitekk.
EPB, a municipal electric distribution and broadband company, first entered the communications business in 2000. Looking to revitalize Chattanooga’s downtown area, EPB helped create America’s first community-wide gigabit Internet Service Provider in the city. The company recently rolled out 25 gig internet to the city as well.
Moving towards quantum is a natural next step for the innovative electric power company. But EPB is no stranger to quantum technology. The company earned an R&D 100 Award for its work in quantum cybersecurity technology in 2021.
Based on its experience rolling out community-wide gig-speed internet, EPB knew it would take time to get customer buy-in and is focused on getting the community ready for a quantum-based future.
“It takes time to educate people about what you’re transforming into,” he told Hypepotamus. “Then you have to give people hands-on experience [with the technology].”
Getting Chattanooga residents prepared for their “Gig” present certainly paid off. Ingraham said Gig City has created over $2.7 billion in economic impact and created 10,000 jobs in the first 10 years of operation.
As for the impact this quantum push will have on Chattanooga? Well, the true numbers won’t be known for years. But Ingraham said the city has already attracted $100 million in federal research projects to the metropolitan area from the Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Lab prior to EPB Quantum Network’s launch.