Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why towns are saying 'Try Me' to Google

Communities across the country are going gaga over Google.
With hopes of becoming a test bed for the online search giant's ultra-fast Internet network, Topeka, Kansas, temporarily changed its name to Google.
Duluth, Minnesota, created a spoof YouTube video mocking Topeka's effort, pledging to rename every first-born male Google Fiber and female Googlette Fiber.
Highlands Ranch, a suburb south of Denver, is gathering community members to form a human "We Love Google" sign at a local high school football stadium.
"We know we have to do something unusual to get Google's attention," said Jamie Noebel, community-relations manager for Highlands Ranch.
Google announced plans last month to a build a fiber-optic network that would offer residential Internet speeds of 1 gigabit per second - about 100 times faster than the speeds available to most Americans today.
Put another way, users would be able to download a high-definition movie in less than a minute, compared with more than an hour on speeds currently available.
The company said the service may reach up to 500,000 people and asked communities interested in becoming a trial location to essentially submit an application by March 26. Google says it will weigh factors such as "community support, local resources, weather conditions, approved construction methods and local regulatory issues."
The test community or communities will be selected this year.
Google has long had a testy relationship with traditional broadband providers, battling over issues such as "network neutrality" - an effort to prevent companies such as Comcast and Denver-based Qwest from offering tiered pricing for access to their networks.
Google doesn't necessarily want to be an Internet service provider. It's using the "experiment" to show that faster broadband speeds can be offered by companies other than cable and telecommunications firms.
"We'll manage our network in an open, nondiscriminatory and transparent way," Google states on the project's Web page.
Google will have to dig up roads and connect fiber-optic cables directly to homes, similar to the network upgrade Verizon has undertaken in its local phone-service territory.
By working directly with local governments, Google can cut some of the red tape that often slows such buildouts, such as right-of-way issues.
And city officials across the country are showing they're more than willing to work with Google.
Longmont in northern Colorado is quick to note that the city owns its own electric utility, giving Google easy access to infrastructure it may need to roll out the service.
"There's a lot of hype out there, but once you get through the hype, we've got a lot of attributes," said Tom Roiniotis, director of Longmont Power & Communications.
He said the St. Vrain Valley School District is planning a YouTube video contest to promote Longmont, which also owns an 18-mile fiber-optic ring that Google can tap into

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