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Google testing super-fast broadband network

By David Goldman, staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Google said Wednesday that it will start testing a new broadband network that will deliver speeds of more than 100 times faster than traditional broadband.

The Internet search giant is aiming to link up with states and municipalities to build and test a fiber-optic network that will offer download speeds of about 1 gigabit per second, according to a blog post on the company's Web site. Google said that the network's speed would be fast enough to download a high-definition, full-length feature film in less than five minutes.

The company said the network would offer wire-line service directly to consumers' homes at "a competitive price." The network will be built by Google (GOOG, Fortune 500), but consumers will be able to choose their service provider. Google expects the test will provide its service to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.

"Our long-term vision is to see a better, faster Internet," said Minnie Ingersoll, product manager of Google's high-speed broadband initiative. "When everyone had dial up, we couldn't imagine what broadband speeds would be like. By increasing speeds by 100 times faster than what's offered today, we can create opportunities for services that we won't even be able to envision now."

Buzz on broadband

The news had open-Internet and broadband proliferation advocates buzzing. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., both said in statements that they hoped Google's test would help usher in a new era of ultra-high-speed Internet access to increase America's global competitiveness.

"Big broadband creates big opportunities," Genachowski said in a statement. "This significant trial will provide an American test bed for the next generation of innovative, high-speed Internet apps, devices, and services."

Google put out a request for information to interested communities on Wednesday. Ingersoll said she hopes Google would be able to identify which community will be the test subject, but added that there was no immediate timeline for when the test network would be up and running.

A strong response to Google's search (no pun intended) has already begun: Facebook groups are beginning to pop up, urging Google to pick their communities, including groups from Buffalo, N.Y. and Chapel Hill, N.C.

This isn't the first time that Google has tried its hand at providing Internet access. In 2006, the search giant launched a free mobile broadband network in Mountain View, Calif., using small WiFi radios hanging on lampposts throughout the city.

Ingersoll said there are no plans to deploy the service beyond the test bed, but Google hoped that a successful network test would help spur deployment of similar high-speed networks from other Internet service providers.

"What the government is doing and other providers are doing is great, and we applaud it, but we think there's more innovation to be done," she said.

Google's desire to see improved Internet speeds is part of its strategy to keep users on the Internet, accessing its Web sites, and clicking on the ads that its sells.

"Since Google's products and services are used by people connecting to the Internet, if people don't have constrained bandwidth ... that means they'll spend more time on Google and other Web sites as well," Ingersoll added.

Analysts say that no matter what Google's intentions, the service will likely be disruptive to the status quo.

"One thing's for sure: This is a big kick in the anthill," said Yankee Group analyst Benoît Felten. "It likely has broadband network operators shaking in their boots." To top of page

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