Which town in Franklin Country will rise to the Gigatown challenge? Pukekohe, Tuakau or Waiuku? Hopefully each of them! Which Council will have the gumption and vision to develop an entry in Gigatown? Auckland or Waikato. Hopefully both!
“Chattanooga Choo Choo” was a bit before my time but the big band swing-dance tune remains memorable and catchy.

576px-Inclinerailway-ChattanoogaBesides the tune, Chattanooga is famed for other things, including its mountain incline railway.  At a maximum grade of 72.7% it is one of the world’s steepest railways, four times steeper than Wellington’s cable car (at 17.8%).

It is not these claims to fame that led Chorus to choose to exemplify Chattanooga for their upcoming ‘Gigatown’ project.

In their promotional video on Gigatown.co.nz, Chorus tell us that “… Chattanooga was ranked first (in the US) for potential economic growth.”  That was 2010 just as the city was implementing its 1Gbps broadband network.

Today, Chattanooga is seeing the benefits of their vision for a city-wide ultra fast fibre network: new jobs, new investment, firms moving to the city.  Other cities are going to Chattanooga to learn the lessons of how it was done.  The city is studied internationally, as a model of how to build the smart cities of the future.

Those lessons are equally applicable to New Zealand and to their credit, Chorus are seizing the opportunity with an imaginative promotion.

Gigatown is a year-long competition between towns and suburbs of major cities, that are within Chorus’ UFB build areas.  The competition starts at labour weekend.

“Over the course of a year we’re going to ask New Zealand communities to get creative, get online and tell New Zealand why their town should receive this gigabit connection,” says Chorus Head of Marketing and Sales, Victoria Crone.

Chorus have undertaken to work with local communities, councils, and the telecommunications industry, to ensure a great competition that gives the widest possible range of communities the chance to be New Zealand’s Gigatown.

The winner, expected to be announced early in 2015, will be the New Zealand town that demonstrates it has the most desire to be Gigatown.

The prize is the offer to residents in the winning town for a 1Gbps fibre connections on the UFB network at the same price they would normally pay for the cheapest 30 Mbps plan.

That’s around $75 per month for speeds 100 times faster than today’s average national broadband speeds.

To win, a town has to prove that it has what it takes to best exploit the faster fibre internet speeds.  That means coming up with innovative ideas and rethinking how to weave digital communications into everyday life.

The challenge is to get towns thinking about what they are going to do to embrace fibre, how they will build new local businesses and services, and make their towns attractive places to live, work and invest in.

Like the tune Chattanooga Choo Choo, Chorus’ Gigatown project is memorable and catchy.  I hope it succeeds in its objective of transforming one New Zealand town in to a world leading digital innovation hub and securing the economic development benefits that will follow from that.

But to succeed, we need local politicians to champion the concept and council officers to commit to it.

Which town in Franklin Country will rise to the Gigatown challenge?  Pukekohe, Tuakau or Waiuku?  Hopefully each of them!

Which Council will have the gumption and vision to develop an entry in Gigatown?  Auckland or Waikato.  Hopefully both!

A final point for Chorus.  If it is good enough for an urban ‘Gigatown’ competition based on the UFB, it is also good enough to develop a similar competition based on rural areas.  Perhaps a Community GigaCentre?

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