Google plans on testing one or more high-speed broadband networks in a select number of midsized U.S. cities, and has asked interested municipalities to provide information about their communities that will allow Google to make its decision. That has led Topeka, Kan., to change its name temporarily to Google, and other towns such as Grand Rapids, Mich., to launch massive social networking campaigns. Google, however, is choosing to keep its decision-making process under wraps.
Pop quiz: What do the cities of Topeka, Kan.,
Park City, Utah,
Grand Rapids, Mich.
and an increasing number of U.S.
cities have in common? They are all either competing or mulling over whether to
compete for a contract to test-market a Google broadband service.
even went so far as to temporarily change its name, which means "to dig
good potatoes" in local Native American dialect, to "Google."
Topeka Mayor Bill Bunten's proclamation changing the city's name for one
month apparently is not even remotely legal. As a purely symbolic gesture,
however, it is meant to draw Google's attention to the city as a possible testbed
for the service, which will reportedly be 50 to 100 times faster than existing
But the name change may not be enough, at least if other cities such as Boulder
or Grand Rapids have anything to
say about it. Those municipalities are also competing for the Google test
network, even if they're unwilling to set their founders rolling in their
graves by changing their names.
"Google is planning to launch an experiment that we hope will make
Internet access better and faster for everyone," Google said on a Website
dedicated to the fiber optic trial.
"We plan to test ultrahigh-speed
broadband networks in one or more trial locations across the country. Our
networks will deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most
Americans have access to today, over 1G-bps, fiber-to-the-home
The service will be offered "at a competitive price" to a test
pool ranging in size from between 50,000 and 500,000 people, which represents a
broad strata of potential cities. The note continues, "From now until
March 26, we're asking interested municipalities to provide us with information
about their communities through a Request for Information (RFI), which we'll
use to determine where to build our network."
That prospect led cities to launch their own campaigns to pull in Google. A
group calling itself Grand Rapids Technology Partners, for example, has been urging
people to emphasize the city's Google viability on social networks. "We
don't know what is going to draw them," Ashima Saigal, a community
activist in Grand Rapids, told
a local news station.
In Ann Arbor, Mich.,
both city executives and officials from the University
of Michigan have been asking locals
to post their preference on Facebook and YouTube, and have launched a dedicated
Website designed to lure Google.
But as with so many of its other initiatives, Google is choosing to play its
decision-making process close to the proverbial vest. If nothing else, that may
drive some enterprising municipality to attempt an even more whimsical stunt.