Google Broadband Test Has U.S. Cities Vying for High-Speed Internet

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-03-21

When Google last month pledged to build and test ultra high speed broadband networks, it touched off quite a competition among city leaders from the East coast to the West coast who want their municipalities to be among those to go Google.  

Google Feb. 10 said that it will build broadband networks that zip 1 gigabit of data per second to users' computers in a handful of regions in the United States. The idea is to reach 50,000 to 500,000 people, possibly generating new applications such as streaming high-definition video content and real-time multimedia collaboration.

Google asked communities interested in being its guinea pigs for the test to volunteer for the test by March 26. With that deadline hurtling near, counties are ratcheting up the rhetoric, making their cases for why they should be among the chosen few.

A few years ago, the idea that Google might join carriers and ISPs in delivering fiber to the home might seem like an anathema to the world's largest search engine, which at the time was sticking to search and Web applications.

But with users' consumption of Web video apps such as YouTube reaching 24 hours a minute in 2010, along with the boost in popularity host of social networking, gaming and work-related apps, Google has decided it is time to own the pipes that shuttle this data.

At the least it may spur carriers to open up their networks as the Federal Communication Commission's National Broadband Plan, which calls for speedier broadband access to residential communities, gets underway.

Why not Google, a company with hundreds of thousands of servers that pack immense computing power in a parallel grid all over the world?

Arbor Networks, which sells network- monitoring equipment to ISPs, said Google would be the third largest ISP in the world based purely on the glut of traffic it pipes to other networks.

Against that backdrop, here is a list of what some cities are doing to curry favor with Google.

Topeka, Kans.:Renamed itself "Google, Kansas - the capital city of fiber optics."

Duluth, Minn.: Mayor Don Ness jumped into Lake Superior in just a T-shirt and shorts. All right you other mayors," he said in this YouTube video. "You want Google Fiber, you jump into Lake Superior."

Sarasota, Fla.: This city has gone Google. Seriously. Sarasota temporarily renamed City Island Google Island. Sarasota Mayor Richard Clapp jumped into a shark tank to show his dedication. Moreover, the city is hosting a free concert with Lindsey Ray March 25.

Baltimore, Md.: Folks in Baltimore launched a Web site that uses Google Maps to plot the location of more than 1,000 residents, offering their reasons for wanting the service.

Grand Rapids, Mich.: Michigan is seriously hot for Google broadband. A group calling itself Grand Rapids Technology Partners has been urging people to emphasize the city's Google viability on social networks.

Ann Arbor, Mich.: City executives and officials from the University of Michigan asked locals to post their preference on Facebook and YouTube, and launched this Web site designed to lure Google.

Flint, Mich.: "If they are able to pull this off, it puts us in the position of being one of the top technology areas of the country," said John Foster, a partner in Convergent Technology Partners.

Others in the mix included Google's hometown of Mountain View, Calif., Prince William County, Va., Bellingham, Wa., and Killeen, Texas.

There will no doubt be a flurry of new entrants into the Google fiber-to-the-home sweepstakes as we race toward the finish line this Friday.

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