A2 vies to be Google Fiber test site

Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 7, 2010

City officials are currently working to promote Ann Arbor as a trial location for a Google-designed, ultra high-speed Internet network.

The project, Google Fiber for Communities, seeks to construct a high-speed, fiber-to-the-home network that will provide Internet service 100 times faster than most commercial offerings, according to the project’s website. Google is currently searching for one or more communities to test the technology, and Ann Arbor hopes to be one of them.

Ann Arbor City Councilmember Christopher Taylor (D–Ward 3) is working to prepare the city’s application for the trial network. Each applicant must demonstrate why its community would best serve as a trial site.

Taylor said Ann Arbor’s reputation as a technologically advanced community places it ahead of other competing cities. Other cities vying to be a test site include Portland, Ore., Grand Rapids, Baton Rouge, La. and Rochester, N.Y., according to The Associated Press.

“Ann Arbor is a highly educated, relatively affluent community with a great amount of pre-existing Internet usage,” Taylor said.

He added that the network “would play a great role in uncapping” technological growth within the city.

Taylor said the network’s ultra-fast speed would enable local entrepreneurs to make key technological advances that might otherwise be impossible.

“There’s latent creativity that would be unleashed by the fiber-to-home network,” Taylor said.

Taylor also emphasized the presence of the University as a key factor in the city’s application.

The University, and the University Health System in particular, would benefit from the faster network, Taylor said.

According to Jim Kosteva, the University’s director of community relations, the University owns between 10 percent and 12 percent of the land located within the potential network’s boundary.

Kosteva said the University already has its own fiber network, but Google’s network proposal offers a much “higher capacity” in terms of speed.

For that reason, Kosteva said the University plans to support the city in its application.

“This is a city application, but the University is providing support,” Kosteva said.

He added that if the network is installed, the University plans to be one of its significant subscribers.

The fiber network would serve between 50,000 and 500,000 people, and promises to offer competitive rates for subscribers, according to the project’s website.

Google Fiber’s website states that Google’s network would enable users to download high-definition, feature-length films in less than five minutes. As a long-term goal, the project also plans to allow users to watch live university lectures in 3-D.

The site states that Fiber for Communities is a work-in-progress and that the purpose of the project is “to experiment and learn” from the trial city.

According to Taylor, public support will be a key factor behind Google’s decision.

A2 Fiber, the city’s advocacy group for the network, has set up both Facebook and Twitter accounts through which local citizens can voice support. As of yesterday, A2 Fiber had more than 1,800 Facebook fans and 237 Twitter followers.

Taylor plans to present the city’s application at the next city council meeting on March 15. Applications for the broadband network are due by March 26.