City officials are one step closer to convincing Google to bring its ultra high-speed Internet network, known as Google fiber, to Ann Arbor.
At its meeting last night, Ann Arbor City Council unanimously approved a resolution to urge that Ann Arbor become a trial location for the project. Google Fiber for Communities aims to construct a high-speed, fiber-to-home network that will provide Internet services 100 times faster than most are accustomed to, according to the project’s website.
Ann Arbor faces stiff competition from many other cities, including Topeka, Kan., whose mayor changed the city’s name to “Google” for the month of March, The Baltimore Sun reported. Google has not specified how many trial locations it will select.
For that reason, Councilmember Christopher Taylor (D—Ward 3) said Ann Arbor must find a way to distinguish itself from the competition.
If selected as a trial location, Ann Arbor will take all legal measures to ensure the safe installation of the network, according to Taylor.
“The city is firmly behind this effort,” Taylor said.
Taylor added that City Council’s approval of the measure is important because Google will consider community support in its evaluation of potential sites.
At last night’s meeting, Mayor John Hieftje said there is a “tremendous amount” of support for Google Fiber around the community.
In addition to support from City Council, there has been an effort to bring Google Fiber to Ann Arbor by gaining grassroots support. A local advocacy group called A2 Fiber has established both Facebook and Twitter accounts for members of the community to voice their support. A2 Fiber has almost 12,000 Facebook friends and 658 Twitter followers as of yesterday.
Lisa Raycraft, a member of A2 Fiber and marketing communications specialist at the University, said in an interview that her group plans to hold a YouTube contest in which community members will submit 2-3 minute videos explaining how Google Fiber would benefit Ann Arbor.
The contest is set to begin Wednesday with a kickoff party at Weber’s Inn, Raycraft said. She added that the winners will receive either a new iPad or one of several gift certificates redeemable at area businesses.
Raycraft said her group plans to use the winning video to send to Google endorsing Ann Arbor as a trial site.
“What Google wants to see is community involvement,” Raycraft said.
Another community organization — Ann Arbor SPARK — is also backing the city’s efforts, according to Elizabeth Parkinson, SPARK’s vice president of marketing and communications.
SPARK aims to foster economic development countywide through things such as sponsoring educational forums for entrepreneurs. According to Parkinson, Google Fiber’s ultra-high-speed Internet would encourage the expansion of information technology companies — like Internet or software developers — within the community.
“We have a nice base of companies that could benefit and grow and expand through this,” Parkinson said in an interview.
Parkinson added that SPARK believes Ann Arbor will emerge as a strong contender for the trial location.
“People have such a sense of pride about being an innovative community and being recognized as such,” Parkinson said.
The city’s application for the broadband network is due by March 26.