Residents of Ann Arbor have already shown their support for Google Fiber via Facebook, Twitter and various publicity stunts — including a three-minute Diag “flash mob” — before the March 26 nomination deadline.
But Ann Arbor faces stiff competition from other communities throughout Michigan and the country that have also demonstrated interest in the one gigabit-per-second Internet connection, which Google claimed on its blog will be 100 times faster than the average connection speed available in the United States.
One of the most notable cities vying for Google’s attention is Topeka, Kan., which re-named itself Google for the month of March. The company responded by changing its name to Topeka for a day as an April Fool’s joke.
The 600 communities that are vying to be Google Fiber trial locations include the Michigan cities of Grand Rapids, Lansing, Birmingham, Detroit, Royal Oak and Kalamazoo. Google stated on its blog that it wishes to implement a “fiber-to-the-home” connection in “a small number of trial locations” throughout the country.
“We plan to offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people,” the blog states.
According to a statement on the Office of the Governor’s website, Jennifer Granholm met with Google officials in California on March 10 to promote Michigan cities as test sites.
“Google Fiber is a perfect fit here, as no state can match the exploding new technology investment in Michigan in recent years,” Granholm said in the statement.
Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo launched websites — Goog616.com and Kalamazoogle.com, respectively — to garner support for bringing Google Fiber to the cities. The websites also provide visitors links to nominate the communities for Google Fiber.
On March 19, hundreds of Grand Rapids residents formed a “flash mob” in the city’s iconic Calder Plaza. The city’s Google Fiber Facebook fan page was also the largest among cities across the country, with over 38,000 members.
In addition to organizing public displays of support, Grand Rapids volunteers poured through Google’s blog, looking for criteria the company would use in determining a test site, according to Peter Brand, a Grand Rapids business owner involved with Goog616.com.
“There were a few cities that tried to do gimmicky things to try to catch (Google’s) attention,” he said. “But we needed to show them that there was going to be no red tape they were going to have to cut through once they were here.”
Volunteers also collected video endorsements from various city government and economic leaders in Grand Rapids and submitted them to Google, Brand said.
Tremaine Phillips, member of the economic development organization Accelerate Lansing, said the capitol and surrounding municipalities submitted an application together.
In order to get the community involved in the initiative, Phillips said a town hall meeting took place to discuss the network. A Facebook fan page was also established that has attracted more than 4,000 members.
Added to Lansing’s credentials is the fact that Google co-founder Larry Page attended East Lansing High School.
“We had a cardboard cutout of Larry Page that we carried around town as a promotional piece,” Phillips said.
Of course, the fact that Page received his undergraduate education from the University of Michigan gives Ann Arbor a similar advantage.
If selected, the fiber network would provide a “significant economic boost” to the Lansing region, she said.
But fiber-based broadband is not a completely original concept.
Lansing has already received some federal funding to establish a fiber network, which the Lansing-based Internet provider Arialink has begun to install, Phillips said.
This type of broadband connection is already widespread in some places outside of the United States, like Sweden, Portugal, Japan, Hong Kong and the Netherlands, for a price of $200 to $300 per month, according to a February 11 GigaOM.com article.
Google will announce which city or communities are to receive its fiber connection for a trial period by the end of the year.