Friday, April 18, 2014 · 9:48 p.m.
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Mikayla Curry, a 10th-grader from the STEM school, talks to the crowd about the benefits of using technology in the classroom. (Photo: Staff)

Mozilla's Gigabit Community Fund kickoff event began Thursday with speakers from across the United States interested in helping Chattanooga grow and harness its gigabit technology. 

"Chattanooga is doing a lot of things quietly, and even some things not so quietly," Ben Moskowitz, a Mozilla representative hosting the discussion event, said. "Chattanooga is really leading the way."

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke recognized The Public Library, whose Broad Street branch hosted the event, as "a library of the future" for its efforts to encourage new ways to utilize the technology. 

"If you look across this room, it is a testament to the true energy that we have going into this project today," Berke said. "We have a resource right here that people across the nation are talking about." 

Only two cities, Kansas City, Miss., and Chattanooga, have gigabit technology, and Mozilla hopes the Gigabit Community Fund will help inspire locals to create ways to harness it. 

Dennis Bega, a senior policy analyst for the U.S. Department of Education, said his department is always looking for new ways to implement technology in the learning system. He said he wants to see how schools, teachers and students can be benefactors of what is created because of the gigabit. 

"Right now, today, more than 70 percent of the schools—40 million kids—do not have access to the connection speeds they need to allow teachers to integrate technology in a teachable way," he said. "It may work well here in Chattanooga, but you are an island in an environment where technology has not been integrated yet."

Bega said his interest in what is created locally is to see how the Department of Education can apply it nationwide "because until it infiltrates the entire school system ... it will still be kind of an outlier experience."

Leah Gilliam, a Mozilla strategist working for the NYC Hive Learning Network, said she wants to take what works in Chattanooga and try to apply it in New York City. 

"We're really talking about bringing together technology with the networks that are made of people, focusing on education, on learning and on collaboration," she said. 

David Wade, executive vice president of electric systems for EPB, said the goal of EPB is to provide gigabit technology at a cost that is accessible. He said his company will continue to provide the service in Chattanooga and hopes the opportunities to use it will grow. 

"We know what it takes to create a successful community ... and a big part of that is our access to technology," Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said at the event. 

He said he looks forward to seeing what is created with Chattanooga's gigabit technology. 

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