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The City Wire Special Report: Seeking Google’s Fiber — Part I

Editor’s note: This is the first in a four-part series attempting to explain what Google’s plan to build an ultra-high speed Internet connection could mean for the Fort Smith/Van Buren area. The series begins today and will wrap up Friday (Feb. 26). The second article will outline what is meant by ultra-high speed; the third article will explain the socio-economic benefits of ultra-high speed internet; and the fourth article will list a few reasons why municipalities or local organizations in this region should send Google an application.

Google has launched an effort that could see the global search engine giant build a high-speed broadband network that would deliver super-sized Internet speeds to up to 500,000 people.

The Google statement explained: “We’re planning to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the United States. We’ll deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections. We plan to offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.”

Officials with Google say their goal is to use the system has a high-speed testbed for next generation applications and deployment methods. The application from city leaders in Peoria, Ill., will be one of the hundreds — if not thousands — Google is expected to receive from cities and organizations who wisely desire to be part of the Google effort. The application deadline is March 26. (Link here for instructions.)

“We want to see what developers and users can do with ultra high-speeds, whether it's creating new bandwidth-intensive 'killer apps' and services, or other uses we can't yet imagine," Google noted in its announcement. "We'll test new ways to build fiber networks; to help inform, and support deployments elsewhere, we'll share key lessons learned with the world."

According to this report from TechCrunch, Google owns a large network of “dark fiber” around the world that the company uses to connect its data centers and lower the cost of “streaming billions of videos a month on YouTube.” TechCrunch says the test is Google’s first step to deliver a high-speed “fiber backbone” to a consumer’s home.

The cost to Google to plug in 100,000 homes with the 1 gigabit per second connection could be between $1.6 billion and $500 million, according to this report from GIGAOM. It’s estimated that Google has about $25 billion in cash. The article also suggests that Google may be pushing the test effort is to also push the FCC to accelerate its examination of using TV white spaces for wireless broadband.

In this report at Technology Live, writer Byron Acohido suggests that “public officials from the communities that volunteer to participate in Google's experiment are likely to get quite a curtain raiser” with respect to gaining insight into Google applications and systems. Such knowledge would be quite a selling point for communities or metro areas seeking to recruit high-tech jobs.

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Acohido also notes that some telecoms may feel threatened by the Google move, but also notes that the bigger telecoms “may feel Google could help validate the hundreds of billions of dollars poured into installing fiber trunk lines.”

Acohido quotes Mike Day, vice president of Internet network equipment supplier ADC, who says “a new generation of compelling applications” from the Google experiment “could stimulate business for everyone.”

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Hope City of Fort Smith Submits

I hope the City answers Google's RFI for this project. A data network with those capabilities would be another drawing point for businesses to locate to the River Valley. Perhaps Sebastian County as a whole should consider applying as well?

High Speed vs. Slow Intellect

From browsing the various reports included on this City Wire I see a connection. Following this Google fiber issue the reader discovers that Peoria, Illinois has applied for the RFI projects. Following the link about Lead abatement the reader finds that on one of the You Tube videos, Peoria, Illinois has substantial lead in old buildings. So I wonder: If lead impairs thinking ability of a potential workforce in an effected location, then the full potential of the Google project may not be realized. If so then Google would consider another location. So the critics of "Federal meddling" in local affairs as concerns environmental protection may as well go to the back of the line when pursuing additional assets for the improvement of Fort Smith's ability to attract new development. Although added expense for historic homes is certain, safety first should be a priority. Yet another failure to plan ahead surfaces here in Fort Smith.