Fiber-mania sweeps nation
Cities go to great lengths to win Google's 'Fiber for Communities' project — Mountain View campaign more low-key
The mayor of Duluth jumped into a freezing lake. Topeka renamed itself "Google, Kansas."
And in Palo Alto on Monday, city staffers and residents leapfrogged and jived in front of City Hall to the tune of "YMCA" by the Village People.
Cities across the country are staging publicity stunts to attract Google's attention, hoping to be selected for the company's live experiment with ultra-fast broadband. Will Google's home town be able to compete?
"I think we'll be equally attractive whether I jump into the water or not," said Mountain View Mayor Ronit Bryant.
Instead of stunts, Mountain View leaders are calling on residents to write in and nominate their city for the experiment.
"We plan to test ultra-high speed broadband networks in one or more trial locations across the country," Google's "Fiber for Communities" Web page states. "Our networks will deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today, over 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections. We'll offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people."
On that same page, located at www.google.com/appserve/fiberrfi, residents can voice their support for Mountain View by clicking on the "Get Involved" button and filling out a form.
The point of the endeavor, Google says, is to jumpstart efforts to provide ultra-fast broadband everywhere by providing a test bed for the technology and exploring the numerous yet-to-be-discovered uses for it. To that end, Silicon Valley and Mountain View has an advantage: "They know the tech-savvy kind of population we have," Bryant said. Palo Alto, Cupertino and Sunnyvale are among the nearby cities in the race.
Despite the competition — Mountain View is up against towns across the country with populations between 50,000 and 500,000 — the city has not gone to outlandish lengths to publicize its interest. There is an announcement on its Web site at www.mountainview.gov, and a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/fiberformountainview.
Elsewhere, publicity stunts abound. In Sarasota, Fla., a water park was renamed "Google Island." At a college basketball game in Colombia, Miss., fans waved 15,000 Google signs. And back in Duluth, Minn., Mayor Don Ness — aside from his videotaped jump into freezing Lake Superior — has jokingly promised to name the city's first-born children after Google.
As for Monday's dance event in Palo Alto, captured on video and posted on that city's Facebook page, "It was kind of loosey-goosey," said Steve Crow of Crow Digital Media, the video's producer. The aim was for a "flash mob" type video, he said, referring to an event in which people spontaneously gather to do a silly or seemingly random activity and then disperse.
Of course, Mountain View already enjoys a free WiFi network courtesy of Google. "People have been very excited about that," said economic development director Ellis Berns, who hopes Google will remember that Mountain View is already well versed at working with the company. At least one company — Meraki Networks, which aims to build WiFi networks for third-world countries — has located in Mountain View partly because of Google WiFi.
In the same sort of symbiotic way, Google fiber "could be tremendously beneficial to residents and to businesses," Berns said.
The Palo Alto Weekly contributed to this report.