Just as residents of the 1,100 U.S. cities that applied to Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) FTTH project were beginning to wonder if the search engine behemoth had forgotten about the whole darn thing, Google today announced that Kansas City, Kansas will be the lucky recipient of a 1 Gigabit broadband network with service expected to begin in 2012, pending approval of the city's Board of Commissioners.
"In selecting a city, our goal was to find a location where we could build efficiently, make an impact on the community and develop relationships with local government and community organizations. We've found this in Kansas City," wrote Milo Medin, Vice President, Access Services, on Google's official blog.
Google will work with several local organizations to develop gigabit applications for the network, including community, educational and medical applications.
Last February, Google launched the trial, giving cities until March 26, 2010 to submit responses to its RFI (request for information). Its selection of cities, originally slated to be announced late in the year, was postponed due to a glut of applications, with 1,100 cities and 194,000 individuals applying.
The impact of Google Fiber goes well beyond Kansas City. "I think that the Google deal is going to put the spotlight on the stark difference between those goals that have been set (at the federal level) for broadband vs. what people really want and is possible," said Craig Settles, a broadband strategist and advocate for community broadband, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "We have the government saying we want 100 Mbps for urban. We want 4 Mbps for rural. You look at Google and it's putting this Gigabit network in place and people are going to say 'we want that.'"
He points to other community broadband projects, such as Chattanooga and Santa Monica, that have brought Gigabit speeds to their residents as proof that Americans can do better than the federal broadband mandate. "I'll concede that in some places you can't put 1 Gigabit... but if you have a substandard mediocre goal, all you're going to achieve is mediocrity. If you have a higher goal, you will achieve great things."
Settles also sees Google's announcement as a shot in the arm for municipal broadband, particularly in North Carolina, where a bill essentially banning muni broadband yesterday passed the state House and is on its way to the state Senate. "States like North Carolina, where a handful of legislators are basically going to legislate North Carolina's broadband situation back to the dark ages ... they're moving their state in the opposite direction, and Kansas is moving it in a forward direction," said Settles.
Rather than setting private sector companies against public sector organizations, both sides should be working together to solve broadband access issues, Settles said, and Google's Kansas City buildout is a great example of public and private sector partnership.
"Google... did it artfully," said Settles. "They gave very little parameters... they asked, what can you create with this? What can you make for this? That inspired 1,100 communities with no clear promise or goal to respond. They responded, they made plans, they got stakeholders. There was silliness, but there was silliness to bring attention to a serious issue, which is providing communications for the 21st century."
- see Google's blog
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