Gigatown is dead, long live Dunedin as GigCity

Chorus Dunedin liason manager Kim Stewart and Co.Starters entrepreneur Enoch Elwell in Dunedin to check out GigCity ...
Hamish McNeilly/Stuff

Chorus Dunedin liason manager Kim Stewart and Co.Starters entrepreneur Enoch Elwell in Dunedin to check out GigCity developments on Friday.

Enoch Elwell knows a thing or two about transforming a city that has seen better days.

He lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a former industrial soot-covered city veteran broadcaster Walter Cronkite dubbed "the dirtiest city in America" in 1969.

Fast forward to 2015, and Chattanooga  was no longer a dirty word after becoming the first city in the United States to have a citywide gigabit-per-second fibre internet network.

Elwell, the Co.Starters entrepreneur, is in Dunedin to see how New Zealand's GigCity is performing since winning Chorus' Gigatown competition in December 2014.

Dunedin beat finalists Timaru, Nelson, Wanaka, and Gisborne to win 1 gigabit broadband, a $200,000 development fund and a $500,000 community fund.

*Top internet speeds five times faster 
*Gigabit broadband now the goal

The last round of that community funding is be announced on Friday night.

For Chattanooga (pop: 170,000) the Gig was due to an upgrade to the city's power network.

It helped usher in a tech boom. The city became a hub for creatives through initiatives such as Co.Starters, an incubation programme for entrepreneurs.

Elwell said the city realised quickly that the Gig represented an opportunity, but it is "has a short shelf life".

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Previously known as a railway city, immortalised by the Glenn Miller song 'Chattanooga Choo Choo', the city is now a hub for the creative and tech scenes.

Its success inspired other United States cities to follow its example, and encouraged New Zealand's Chorus to start the Gigatown competition.

Chorus Dunedin liaison manager Kim Stewart said  said the win gave Dunedin a two-year head start over other centres. It will "always be the first Gig City".

The three-year period was to end on February 25, 2018. However,  because the build is expected to be completed then, the gig plans for Dunedin were extended.

Stewart said some amazing tech companies utilised Dunedin's competitive advantage and the industry was thriving as a result.

As for the Gigatown competition, it was unlikely to be reprised, she said.

Elwell said having world-class infrastructure was important, but was just one piece to the puzzle.

"Having it is one thing, leveraging it is another," Elwell said.








 - Stuff

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