Back in mid-February, I posted a note about Google’s proposed high-speed Internet “experiment”, in which it plans to install fiber connectivity, at 1 Gbps, to somewhere between 50,000 and 500,000 residences. At the time, the announcement had garnered a good deal of publicity, and the cities of Seattle and Pittsburgh had declared their interest in being the site of Google’s test bed.
It seems, according to an article at Ars Technica, that Google will have plenty of other eager candidates, as well. Just in North Carolina, for example, the cities of Greensboro, Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill are all actively courting Google. Other hopeful suitors include Grand Rapids MI, Duluth MN, Madison WI, and Columbia MO. Some are resorting to various promotions or stunts in the hope of improving their chances; in some cases, it almost seems that they are trying for the most embarrassing form of toadying they can think of.
Sam Poley of the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau plans to “get thousands of people onto the field of the [minor league baseball] Durham Bulls Athletic Park to spell out the words ‘We Want Google,’” according to the local Herald-Sun.
The mayor of Duluth, Mr. Don Ness, wrote on his blog:
Providing Google Fiber to Duluth would be akin to giving Picasso his first paintbrush, Brett Hull his first hockey stick, or giving Brin and Page start-up capital,
The capital of Kansas, Topeka, has decided that it should be referred to as “Google, Kansas” for the month of March. The change is unofficial — apparently, the city attorney opined that the name could not legally be changed for a short time and then changed back (what a party pooper!) — but it was announced via an official proclamation by Mayor WIlliam Bunten, naming Google, Kansas the “Capital City of Fiber Optics”. There is also a “Think Big Topeka” Web site, which leads with “Imagine Topeka as a technology hot spot.”, and a Facebook fan page. (It has been a few years since I have been to Topeka, I mean Google, but if that works for you, your imagination is obviously streets ahead of mine.)
It’s easy to poke a bit of fun at these efforts, but there is a serious side to all of this. It’s clear that the citizens and local governments in these cities see the availability of high-speed Internet access as important to their future (even if, in some cases, they are not really sure what they would do with it).
Cities see high-speed connectivity as the future, they don’t feel like existing ISPs offer the needed innovation, and Google is offering to shoulder the cost of the network.
And, as I noted in the original post on this topic, the United States, once a leader in Internet connectivity, is now an also-ran. There is not much evidence to encourage the hope that the existing telecom providers will get the job done in a timely or economic fashion. So it’s not hard to see why some of these medium-sized cities see the Google project as a golden opportunity.
The FCC has found that about one-third of the US population does not have broadband access to the Internet, and has been instructed by Congress to produce a plan to improve access. That plan is due to be issued in the middle of this month. Perhaps that will help those cities that don’t get selected by Google to resolve to move forward on their own.