Google Flooded With High-Speed Fiber Requests

Build it and they will come -- or in Google's case, simply pledging to build was enough.

By David Needle | Posted Mar 26, 2010
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Google's ambitious plan to test deployment of an "ultra high-speed broadband network" in select markets has resulted in more than 190,000 individual and over 600 community requests to participate, as the responses pour in just hours ahead of Friday's deadline for site proposals.

When Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) unveiled the plan last month, it said it planned to offer the fiber broadband service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 people, but potentially up to 500,000 people, and it asked for interested cities and communities to submit proposals.

The reason for the massive response in Google's broadband networks -- some communities have even renamed themselves to attract the search giant's interest, and there have been numerous YouTube pitches -- is easy to understand. Google said the small number of ultra high-speed networks in the U.S. will deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today, with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections.

The fiber plan is similar to earlier moves by Google to promote wider access to the Internet; for example, Google offers free Wi-Fi to residents in Mountain View, Calif., where the company has its headquarters.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has praised Google's efforts, which come as federal regulators are promoting their own plans to expand the availability and adoption of high-speed Internet service across the U.S.

"If one message has come through loud and clear, it's this: People across the country are hungry for better and faster Internet access," Google product manager James Kelly said in a blog post that detailed the response to Google's plan.

While the end result will be blazingly fast Internet speeds, Google is not racing to announce who will get to participate. Kelly's post said Google plans to carefully review the responses and will make site visits, meet with local official and consult with third-party organizations over the next several months to help decide where to build.

"Based on a rigorous review of the data, we will announce our target community or communities by the end of the year," he said.

Speedy networks, new applications?

As a company, Google has long been focused on speed, particularly for its namesake search engine, which boasts millisecond response times. But Google hopes the high-speed network will not just speed up what people already do on the Web. Instead, it's wagering that it will show the potential of new kinds of applications and use models.

Google said in its announcement last month that it hopes the experiment leads to new, bandwidth-intensive "killer apps and services we can't even imagine yet." Google also said it hopes to test new ways to build fiber networks and plans to share "lessons learned" that will support deployments elsewhere.

David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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