The Importance of the Gig in Chattanooga — and Everywhere

Hive Chattanooga is heading to U.S. Ignite’s 2015 Summit in Washington, D.C. on March 23.  This dynamic event brings technologists, policy leaders and community organizers together to chart a Smart Future made possible by next-generation networks. Two Hive Chattanooga Projects, Adagio and Viditor, will demo at the Summit, showing attendees the smart future of education that we are already experiencing with Chattanooga’s gigabit network.
In Chattanooga, our team is constantly asked the same big, juicy question by community members: so what? Why do you really need a gig? Why do high-speed networks really matter? My hope is that our project teams’ demos help to answer this “so what?” question. We’re excited to captivate summit attendees with how next-generation networks can make teaching better, learning more fun, and classrooms more engaging through real-world, community-based gigabit innovations.
Answering the “so what?” question wasn’t easy when we first launched Hive Chattanooga a year ago. Chattanoogans had seen demos, concerts and showcases displaying the power of the Gig, but few community members had experienced the impact of our next-generation network in their everyday lives. The eight projects we’ve supported through the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund have changed this community dynamic, moving “the Gig” from abstract idea to reality. The impact on learning that next-generation networks can have is now abundantly clear to the thousands of students and hundreds of educators teachers who have interacted with the Hive Chattanooga Gigabit Fund projects. That impact includes these essential qualities:

  • Immediacy: Next-generation networks make learning immediate and immersive — just ask any student who’s built a video with Viditor or any teacher who worked with a student across town via video through Wireless Earth Watchdogs. Gig speeds mean that students don’t have to wait for a video download or for their projects to compile losing valuable classroom minutes.  They don’t experience weird lurches in video calls or buffering times on media-rich websites. This advantage may seem minor, but its impacts on engagement are huge.  When videos load instantly, there’s no time to become distracted with another tab or another student. When there’s no lag on video calls, distance learning feels like in-person learning.
  • Equity: High-speed networks level the technological playing field for Chattanooga’s students. Gig speeds mean that schools don’t need the latest and greatest hardware to be on the cutting edge of technology. Chattanooga’s high-speed network allows data to stream without delay or lag to the cloud, where hardware-intensive processes can take place. This means that students working on old laptops or outmoded tablets can — without a great processor or expensive software — edit videos thanks to Viditor or mix music with Adagio.

The students, teachers, and community members who have participated in Gigabit Community Fund projects through Hive Chattanooga might not be able to explain software-defined networking, how GENI works, or why low-latency connections matter. However, they do know that they don’t have to wait for the video they made to upload and that they won’t have lags or freezes when talking to a class on the other side of Chattanooga via video chat. These Chattanoogans have experienced the benefits of the gig — the so what? of this work — even if they can’t explain it with technical jargon. They have experienced how our next-generation network makes learning more immediate and bleeding-edge technology more equitable and accessible. They’ve experienced the Smart Future in Chattanooga today.