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Locally and nationally, consumers are opting not to buy homes if they don’t have access to high-speed Internet. 

The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted the topic, and Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors President Travis Close said that residents in rural areas value high-speed Internet access just as much as people who live in city centers.

But access isn’t always available. There are still unincorporated areas of Hamilton County with limited Internet access. 

Nearly one in three rural Americans lacks access to broadband Internet service, compared to one in 100 urban Americans, local officials said, citing the Federal Communications Commission’s latest Broadband Progress Report. 

The FCC defines high-speed Internet as 25 megabits per second or more. Fiber can deliver speeds of 1,000 megabits per second. 

“Within the last two years, we’ve really seen a push [in a desire for high-speed Internet],” Close said. “It’s almost more important to have high-speed Internet as opposed to fiber TV.”

That’s because people are watching television online or want to work from home. They want to be connected to the rest of the world, he said. 

The Wall Street Journal article cited a study from researchers at the University of Colorado and Carnegie Mellon University.

The report also indicated that fiber optic connections, the fastest type of high-speed Internet available, not only entice buyers but also add significant value to the price of a home. 

Unlike telecom companies, which are legally obligated to make telephone service available to every residence in their service area, there is no law requiring the same of Internet providers, local officials said. 

Seven of Tennessee’s municipal utilities have successfully deployed communitywide fiber optic networks, but state law prohibits them from expanding beyond their current service areas—even though local leaders in other communities are inviting them to expand to serve their citizens, according to the Greater Chattanooga Associations of Realtors. 

There is currently legislation being proposed that would change state laws to allow broader service.

EPB provides high-speed Internet of 100 megabits per second or 1 gig per second, and leaders recently announced 10-gig speeds. But they can only provide that to residents in their service area. 

“High-speed Internet has become a staple of American culture, and homebuyers are typically shocked to find out there are areas that still don’t have access to it, especially when Chattanooga is known as the Gig City,” Close also said.