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Communities Compete For Google Fiber

Google Fiber created a feeding frenzy earlier this year as communities competed for network access. Robust network capabilities could prove an attractive lure to business.

Apr/May 10
More than 1,000 communities across the country are trying to get it. Few will be successful - at first.

Still, excitement has hit a fever pitch over Google Fiber, the technology that will provide a lightning-fast, one-gigabit-per-second connection. The technical term for a connection that fast is "super freaking fast," and Google plans to choose a handful of communities in which to test it before possibly taking it nationwide.

But would it really spur business activity?

Google Fiber would represent an enormous capacity boost over Comcast Business Class cable, the existing provider for Royal Oak, Michigan-based Knight Technology Group, said president Ken Rutyna.

"We depend on the Internet for all our access to customers, and to remotely support people quickly," Rutyna said. "Comcast has been good, but Fiber and gigabit Internet is way better than what we have today."

He said he would move Knight immediately to Google Fiber if he could.

"It would greatly increase everything we do, and productivity on the Net for supporting customers is paramount to us," Rutyna said. Royal Oak Mayor Jim Ellison said the community is pushing hard for Google Fiber because that sentiment is widespread. "We have a growing technology segment in our community that is looking for any opportunity to enhance their business," Ellison said. "Our demographics of the community show that we are getting a younger, more enlightened group of people that are making Royal Oak their home. I believe we are on the cutting edge of being the location where people can locate and grow. That environment is the ideal setting to make Google Fiber successful."

In Greensboro, North Carolina, businessman Jay Ovitorre is leading the charge to win the Google Fiber race. In addition to enhanced research capabilities at several nearby universities, Ovitorre believes that local high-tech companies could improve their innovation and technology. He cites R.F. Microdevices, a Greensboro-based designer and manufacturer of semiconductor components as an example. "They're big in the semiconductor industry with chips and what-not, and they're essentially a research facility as well," Ovitorre said. "They're creating products for the entire globe, and their headquarters is here in Greensboro."

Without boosting the broadband capacity of companies such as R.F., Ovitorre says his community and others put themselves at a disadvantage during tough economic times.

"Eleven hundred cities across America filed applications for a reason," Ovitorre said. "Their incumbent providers aren't providing adequate service. Here, we're stuck with Time Warner Cable or DSL. That's not going to cut it. We're tenth in unemployment right now, and it's hard to create jobs when you're forty-first in broadband."

The application deadline has already passed, but communities will be selected at the end of the year. Google took community support, local resources, approved construction methods, weather, and local regulatory issues into consideration.

Most communities that apply for Google Fiber won't be chosen as initial test sites. But those that fall short will not have wasted their efforts, Ovitorre says. He is involved with Communities United for Broadband, a group that plans to review what its members have learned from their pursuit of Google Fiber, and use it to find ways to meet their future broadband needs.

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