Google’s announcement that it intends to build and test superfast fiber-optic broadband networks in a few communities around the United States has a few locations pulling out all the stops to be chosen with some attention-getting stunts that scream to the search giant: “Pick me! Pick me!”
Some cities have (temporarily) renamed themselves with some sort of Google-ish name. Others have seen that and raised, promising to include “Google” in the name of every newborn. And the negative ads are starting to coming out, with some candidates exposing the shortcomings of others.
I understand the high temperature that this particular fever brings. Ultrahigh-speed broadband from a company such as Google would be massive. The thought of having internet speeds one hundred times faster than my current service is pretty damn appealing. So it didn’t really surprise me when my own hometown of Sarasota, Florida, joined the ranks of Duluth, Minnesota, or Topeka, Kansas, or Buffalo, New York, and others in some sort of publicity stunt to draw the attention of Google.
It’s not unfounded. Sarasota has a lot to offer and of course, I’m biased. The whole thing is a great use of social media, with hundreds of Facebook groups popping up and towns making their own viral videos. Trust me, if you’ve ever been to Central Florida along the coast you wouldn’t think that the populace here would even know what a viral video is, much less be able to comprehend making one.
So far, the most popular stunts have been Topeka renaming their town Google for one month, and Duluth making a set of tongue-in-cheek videos with their mayor proclaiming that every first-born child will be named either Google Fiber or Googlette Fiber. Sarasota has made their own video, showing that Duluth is very cold and Topeka doesn’t have much of a view, while Sarasota is paradise (Tip to Sarasota: Put the video on Google-owned YouTube instead of only Facebook. Just sayin’).
Sarasota currently ranks fifth on the list, while Grand Rapids, Michigan, leads the pack so far with over 20,000 votes. Sarasota’s stunt is renaming the popular park, City Island, to Google Island. Unoriginal at best, but the point is the same.
What is the point? The point is that Google has most likely already chosen a destination for their ultrahigh-speed broadband testing grounds. It’s going to be a town with fiber already in the ground, and it’s going to be a town that has something that will really test the broadband. Google is going to need the right kind of technology and industry in order to truly test their network. A hundred times faster than our current internet speeds is fast, really fast. As individuals, do we really need that type of speed in our homes? Well, of course we do. What kind of question is that?
A great side effect of Google Fiber even thinking about coming into a market such as Sarasota, where Comcast or Verizon are the only options, is that it will prompt both of those companies to adjust their current behavior when it comes to high-speed broadband. Comcast has mentioned restricting broadband, while Verizon is still limited to certain areas. Both these activities will have to change in order to compete. Comcast will have to keep unrestricted broadband, while Verizon might want to think about expanding past the highway, not to mention competitive pricing. Google plans on creating an open-access provider network; that is, they’ll provide their service to independent ISPs who will then sell to you, similar to how the phone system operates.
Which again, filters back to price point. Ultrahigh-speed broadband? The future is here, and its name is Google Fiber. Of course, this could be just the start of Google Skynet for all we know. I for one, welcome my new Google overlords to Sarasota, and I’ll let you all know how superfast and awesome their broadband is.
Towns have until March 26 to nominate themselves through Google’s RFI site.