City Vies For High Speed Internet Trial

Brent Finnegan -- February 25th, 2010

google GHarrisonburg is in competition with a myriad of cities across the country for Google’s attention. Earlier this month, the tech giant announced plans “to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the United States.”

City officials want Harrisonburg to be the epicenter of those 1 gigabit-per-second fiber optic network connections.

Mayor Kai Degner, several city departments, and some local tech companies are working to nominate Harrisonburg for Google’s experiment. There’s a link to the nomination form on the homepage of the city’s website, and a prompt for residents and business owners to join in the effort.

“Josh Baugher sent me an email about the [Google fiber trial],” writes Harrisonburg Mayor Kai Degner. “I checked it out, and was in the city offices 20 minutes later. Good example of a resident making an impact.” Degner continues:

Imagine having internet 100 times faster than anywhere else in the world. Sure, it benefits Google, but it benefits us, too. Not only would we benefits as users of faster internet and new not-yet-conceived-of applications that depend on that fast an internet, it would attract the technology industry we’re wanting to develop. The long-run benefit is having a front seat to the nuts and bolts of implementing the new technology and being the center for new innovation and spin-offs.

But it’s going to take a lot more than search engine optimization to catch Google’s eye in this case. The number one web service in the world is looking for a very specific kind of community — one that’s not too big to connect, but just big enough that it has a good number of tech companies that can experiment on the network.

According to a recent story in PCWorld, Google may be doing this to push their vision of what the internet could be in the U.S. — more like Korea’s or Japan’s ultra-high speed web:

. . . the Google network will be open access, meaning third-party service providers will be able to use it to deliver Internet to their customers. In this way, Google is trying to bring back discarded open-access rules that used to require incumbent telecom companies such as Verizon and AT&T to allow ISPs such as Earthlink to buy space on their DSL broadband networks at discount prices.

Harrisonburg router

Ande Banks, Harrisonburg Director of Special Projects & Grant Management, is preparing the Google application for the city. Banks is working with various city departments to answer Google’s request for information. He writes:

Ultra-high speed broadband would offer a tremendous competitive advantage to Harrisonburg businesses. I envision firms wishing to perform pilot projects on this system, resulting in jobs and investment in Harrisonburg. This could be a great asset for the local colleges and universities to utilize. Ultimately, this is providing a needed level of infrastructure for the growth and innovation of the next generation of applications that interface our lives with on-line and other digital resources.

ValleyApps, a local Google-authorized app reseller, is the sort of company Banks is describing. I caught up with Mike Vanderpool, president of ValleyApps and Vision Studios, and asked him about the Google experiment.

What are Harrisonburg’s chances of beating out dozens (if not thousands) of other comparably-sized cities in the U.S.? As Vanderpool points out, there are some advantages. We are situated next to a major artery of fiber optic cable running down the I-81 corridor.

Banks notes that “our community is large enough to meet Google’s minimum requirements (approximately 50,000), but it is small enough to conceivably roll-out an entire fiber optic network within the time-frame they are hoping.”

Whether or not Google will ultimately choose Harrisonburg is anyone’s guess. But the implication is that the more community groups to nominate their community, the better the chances.

Mayor Degner writes, “Our application’s competitiveness can be influenced by individual nominations from city residents. We are urging all interested people to nominate us using the online form. You can also submit a short YouTube video – I’d love to see some!”

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19 Responses to “City Vies For High Speed Internet Trial”

  1. Drew Richard says:

    This would be amazing. I read the story about Google trying to roll it out, but never actually thought the burg would even try to be in the running. This would be HUGE for Harrisonburg.

  2. Drew Richard says:

    Just did the “nominate your community” thing. Anybody creating a Facebook page for this? I feel like I could get a TON of JMU students doing this form…especially if we have some responses that they could basically copy and paste.

  3. Joey Groah says:

    Brent, or ValleyApps, do you have a sense of the number and type of local businesses using Google Apps to run their business?

    It’s funny to think of how long I’ve used Google products…

  4. Joey,
    To our knowledge there not many business using Google Apps locally. We are trying to educate as many people as we can about the benefits and cost savings of Google Apps over solutions like Microsoft Exchange and Outlook. As you mentioned many people have been using Google Products but it Gmail just came out of Beta and Google Apps which is Gmail and a host of other things was a part of that release. We look to hold some online webinars about Google apps and also so in person meetings to try and spread the word about Google apps. Thanks

  5. Brian M says:

    I know the Harrisonburg Rescue Squad uses Google Apps extensively for scheduling and agency documents. Now there’s a great example of the benefit of Google Apps. I know how difficult it was to manage that many volunteers (over 100) years ago. This new method is extremely easy to use and much less labor intense.

  6. Adam Sharp says:

    I don’t know if I qualify as “local”, but Sharp Political Consulting uses Google Apps and in many instances our clients use Google Apps for their campaign e-mail, calendar and documents.

    For example, two members of the Harrisonburg City Council used Google Apps during their campaigns, as well as other Google services for their websites. A third used a personal Google account for online shared documents.

    So it’s not quite Scott Brown using Google Docs to win a U.S. Senate election, but it is a local use of Google Apps.

  7. That is really great so many people are using APPS. It is a wonderful platform to increase productivity and collaboration. The ability to use App Engine and custom develop gadgets and apps is really a great feature.
    Watch for major improvements in Docs interface that will give it the power to directly compete with the Microsoft Office Suite.

  8. Josh says:

    Blue Ridge Community College and Bridgewater College use Google Apps for email (Mary Baldwin, VaTech and UVA have the same setup as well, for what it’s worth).

    EMHS and JMU’s University Program Board use Google Calendar for posting some of their event information.

    I’m sure there are plenty of other implementations in the community in addition to thousands of individual users.

  9. Joe says:

    I think Google is evil. That is the one thing they professed to never become. Our privacy is their currency. Evil.

  10. Perhaps. But they make the best toys.

    Cooperating with the totalitarian Chinese government could certainly be described as evil, but Google recently announced they will stop censoring search results in China.

    I think it’s absolutely lousy that they’re cooperating with DMCA to squash mp3 blogs, but I wonder what they can do if they’re being threatened with lawsuits from RIAA (assuming they would be liable in court).

  11. Joe,
    Take a look at it is a way Google has come up with for those folk who want to transition out of Google and into something less evil like MICROSOFT? AOL? The issue here is the data they store is much less “telling” then any of the other tech giants whom have been doing this for years. The difference here is that google actually has a system where you can liberate your data from their servers. Google understands that you own the data and that is stated very clearly in the SLA. My thoughts are they are a very socially responsible company and they are the better of the “evils”.

  12. Brian M says:

    There’s a huge difference between the potential for evil and being evil. It seems to be human nature to not trust any large corporation. Besides the two examples that Brent brought forth, what other examples of Google being evil do you have, Joe?

    (p.s. Steve Jobs’s opinion doesn’t count. LOL)

  13. Steve Jobs would tell that if you are looking for evil you need look no further than Microsoft.

    But never mind that: I have boxes of dead software. Can’t tell you how much time I wasted becoming a wordperfect power user. Boy, Quattro was good while it lasted! Remember Corel Draw? What happened to COBOL? Anyone seen Canvas lately? MSOffice was really good, and intuitively revised, then it was “improved” to Office2007 and we started again. I’m tired of learning software. If every time I buy a car, I have figure out where the brake, accelerator, and turn signal controls are located I’ll stick with the clunker I know.

    I’m now a late-adopter. If Microsoft doesn’t find a way to kill google apps I’ll jump on when they are universal, and easy to use. Right now it still looks like Bambi vs. Godzilla.

  14. Renee says:

    I have introduced GMail, Google Calendar, and Google Apps to several of my website-development customers. They like that it’s an easy way to have several people update one calendar that’s embedded on a webpage, for instance.

    Here’s an example of a local church using shared Google calendars on their site (we embedded them into WordPress pages). They also have a private log-in area for staff, and available email addresses using their domain name that I set up with Google Apps.

    More often lately, I’m coming across people that already use GMail and GCal for personal use that are curious how they can use it for their businesses/organizations.

    About the high-speed internet – I think Harrisonburg has so many dimensions – from local small businesses to non-profit orgs to college students to immigrant communities to national corporations – it would be a perfect “test-bed” for Google!

    Also, I’ve found many out-of-towners are surprised by how many high-tech businesses are located here, “out in the country” instead of setting up shop in the DC area. I do the majority of my business communication online, and have many customers out of the area, and Google’s high-speed internet could make a big difference for me!

  15. No, no Renee. We’re not “out in the country”, we’re “outside the 50 mile blast ring”. Our location has become an asset. Trader Joes can’t be far behind!

  16. Renee says:

    True, Bubby!

  17. Drew Richard says:

    Haha, I’m the one that introduced UPB to Google Calender when I was doing their website. Unfortunately for JMU students, they will not be moving to Google anytime soon. The university actually switched over to Outlook. While this is certainly a step forward over Webmail…it’s still not nearly as good as Gmail. In fact, most students I know have already setup forwarding to their Gmail again in the few days they’ve had Outlook. Anyway, Google Apps is certainly a great way to go and I use Analytics for every site that I build. There’s simply no greater free analytics system out there.

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