Chattanooga Times Free Press

EPB, Qubitekk’s QuantumNetwork is embarking on tech’s next frontier


If EPB and Qubitekk succeed in their mission, they could position Chattanooga at the forefront quantum technology — a revolutionary field poised to solve problems beyond the reach of current systems.

It wouldn’t be the first time Chattanooga has led the way.

In 2010, EPB, Chattanooga’s municipal utility company, completed a 100% fiber optic network accessible to all customers as the basis for launching America’s first community-wide gig-speed internet. In 2022, the company established the nation’s first commercially available quantum network — EPB Quantum Network powered by Qubitekk — with a goal of increasing commercialization and creating local job opportunities.

In December of 2023, EPB’s Quantum Network on boarded its first two customers — a New York-based quantum hardware company called Qunnect, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC).


One of Duncan Earl’s favorite questions about quantum technology is: When will the world begin using it?

“The timeline is now,” said Earl, co-founder and CTO of Qubitekk, a leading San Diegobased quantum networking company. “If you think about the EPB quantum network, we started building two years ago, completed it a year ago, and now we have customers coming on.”

Earl, a resident of California, traces his roots back to Grainger County, Tennessee. Reflecting on his upbringing, he recalls a sense that technology was an external force shaping the community’s fate, rather than residents harnessing its power for their own advancement.

“Progress marches on, whether we are ready for it or not. It’s sort of unstoppable,” he said. “But we’re much better off if we can get in front of it, so that technology and change aren’t happening to people, dragging them with it in a negative way.

“When you get ahead of it, you can use it to make your community better and control the impact.”


“This is pioneering technology,” said EPB Spokesperson J.Ed Marston. For now, quantum technology offers a way for EPB and the City of Chattanooga to attract startup companies and investors, so they can run their technologies in the real world.”

Marston said one of the biggest challenges in quantum technology right now is that much of the research is being done in isolation by corporate and national labs, and universities. The creation of EPB’s quantum network is a beginning step to bring the pieces of that puzzle together, allowing researchers a way to move from lab experimentation to real world commercialization.

“And right now, the whole industry is trying to figure out how to do that,” Marston said.

Much like with artificial intelligence, experts tend to agree that quantum technology is expected to transform the way the world lives and does business.

“Both will be transformative, and will probably work together,” said Qubitekk’s Earl. “If you think AI is impressive now, wait until you have quantum behind it. … Quantum will be able to solve problems that are very difficult with traditional computers.

“It doesn’t solve all problems, but it solves ones that we have great difficulty with today.”


All around the world, the race is afoot to develop quantum technologies.

“Whoever is investing first, creating the infrastructure that you need to support this … those early players are going to see the benefit. And Chattanooga is in that position,” Earl said. “They have positioned themselves to be the leaders, with the nation’s first commercial network, which is a unique facility that you can’t find anywhere else in the U.S.”

“We’re going to use this technology to improve lives around the world; and specifically, here in Chattanooga,” he said. “Silicon Valley grew from farmland into this economic engine. And we’re going to see history repeating itself around quantum.”

Worldwide, public and private sectors are investing billions, said EPB’s Marston, which equates to huge opportunities for economic growth on the horizon. The goal is for Chattanooga to seize a share of that promising potential.

EPB and the City of Chattanooga have joined forces with local educational institutions from kindergarten to university levels, aiming to introduce quantum concepts at an early stage. Quantum technology is poised to generate high-paying employment opportunities, with the added benefit that a science degree won’t necessarily be a required.

“We’re basically contributing to the development of a whole new technology,” said Marston. “But we’ve positioned Chattanooga to get attention from companies who had never heard of us before. … But this is a long-term play where we’ve succeeded in getting Chattanooga on the map … and how it’s going to play out will be a longer-term effort.”


Researchers anticipate that at some point — be it in two years or a decade — there will emerge a computer powerful enough to breach encrypted data. (Think: bank accounts, Social Security numbers, and military information such as missile command.)

Although this ultra-powerful computer is not currently in existence, there are nefarious actors awaiting its arrival. They are currently harvesting data with plans to decrypt it once the technology becomes available.

“Quantum is both the poison and the antidote,” said Earl. “And part of why it’s really important that networks happen first rather than quantum computers.”

The cure to which Earl refers is known as “entanglement,” a quantum principle in which two “entangled” photons exhibit identical behaviors and properties, even when separated by vast distances. Through entanglement, the manipulation of one photon results in the simultaneous destruction of the other, establishing a form of interconnectedness.

And networks like Chattanooga’s hold promise to provide safe connectivity and quantum security.

“Any time you have a new technology that’s going to transform our habits, it’s scary,” said Earl. “But I would say with quantum, … if we’re careful with our policies, we can make it much better for humanity. If they’re unchecked, I don’t agree with that. … I don’t want to say there’s not cause for concern, but there is also a great opportunity for good.”