There’s an interesting discussion going on over in Jeff Pelline’s blog about the Google Fiber for Communities project. One of Jeff’s readers, Bob Garza, posted a pointer to an interesting article about the project in yesterday’s San Jose Mercury (“Gaga for Google: Communities compete for high-speed Internet“).
The Mercury article is entertaining because it shows the lengths — sometimes ludicrous lengths — to which some communities will go to attract Google’s attention:
They’re swilling Google-tinis in Sarasota, Fla., and vowing to Google-ize the names of their firstborn children up in Duluth. Topeka has been temporarily re-christened Google, Kan. And mayors throughout the realm are vying for the search giant’s favor, from sucking up to it on Twitter to jumping into icy Lake Superior in their shorts.
… From Berkeley to Boca Raton, hundreds of cities have joined the high-tech stampede to be chosen as a host for Google’s grand fiber-optic experiment — free installation of a network delivering Internet speeds 100 times faster than what most Americans have ever seen.
It occurred to me as I read the Mercury article that getting Google’s attention and getting them to choose our community are two entirely different things.
And I also had a flash of insight: While most communities will naturally emphasize their unique qualifications, what might be most influential is to emphasize what’s not unique. That is, emphasize how our community is typical or representative of the best in American rural life.
Since it will obviously be impossible for Google to select every rural community that applies for this project, the next best thing will be to select a qualified rural community that in some sense represents all rural communities, a model for what is typical of rural communities. It might be in our interest to suggest such a strategy in our application to Google.
Any citizen may submit a recommendation to Google on the project website here. See my own submission on behalf of Nevada County at the end of this post. Everyone who has an interest in this project should use this tool. We could have a “virtual gigabit rally” for our community. This might add some weight to the decision scale.
I’m assuming that Google will choose at least one rural community. Support for this assumption can be found in several of Google’s writings. The very first sentence in the very first paragraph of its “Project Overview” uses a rural example:
Imagine sitting in a rural health clinic, streaming three-dimensional medical imaging over the web, and discussing a unique condition with a specialist in New York. Or downloading a high-definition, full-length feature film in less than five minutes. Or collaborating with classmates around the world while watching live 3D video of a university lecture. Universal, ultra high-speed Internet access will make all this, and more possible.
In Google’s comments to the FCC in support of a National Broadband Plan, they again use the rural example:
Last November, the FCC paved the way for “white spaces” spectrum to be used to deliver better and faster wireless broadband connections to American consumers. The Commission should encourage use of unlicensed devices in “white spaces” spectrum by eliminating unnecessary requirements and easing interference standards in rural areas where no actual harmful interference would occur.
And in Google’s Public Policy Blog, their proposal to operate a “white spaces” spectrum database elicits a number of references to the rural application:
This spectrum, which can cover vast distances, could be used to connect underserved rural and urban communities to the Internet, at perhaps a tenth of the cost of today’s municipal wi-fi projects … We believe this technology holds particular promise for those tens of millions of Americans living in more rural areas … Wally Bowen of the Mountain Area Information Network discussed the potential of these airwaves to bring broadband access to rural communities … Utilizing the unused TV “white spaces” for broadband access would be a tremendous opportunity to bring the Internet to more Americans — including those in rural areas and first responders.
Google, in its Project Description, also speaks of wanting to achieve as rapid a deployment as possible.
Here’s the text of my submission to Google this morning, using the tool mentioned above. I’m unaccustomed to writing advertising copy, but I took my best shot, even at the risk of a little extra hyperbole.
As a former Stanford network engineer who lived 40 years in Palo Alto and now the last few years in Nevada County, I feel confident in saying that Nevada County represents the perfect testbed for the rural portion of your project.
Nevada County well reflects the American rural ideal, with its demographic mix of high-tech savvy and strong community values. And like most rural communities at this time in our history, it is hurting economically.
The gigabit project could act here like a catalyst injected into a supersaturated solution, provoking an economic phase change.
Our county, with a population of nearly 100,000, is rich with the talent and requisite infrastructure ingredients for such a project. This is the original home of Grass Valley Group, a world leader in video technology. There is a significant amount of broadband technology here, but, as always, the rural distances inhibit its reach.
The talent in this county is remarkable, and you will no doubt get more details about that from the municipal application. I offer my comments here in support of that application.
The point I would emphasize is that, since Google obviously can’t deploy this project to all the rural communities that will apply for it, it makes sense to select an emblematic or archetypal rural community, one that will stand for all.
Nevada County is that county, beyond a doubt, with the additional advantage that it already has a high-degree of high-tech savvy among its citizens, so the prospects for a rapid deployment are very high.