Cities get creative to court Google broadband

By Megan Miller, CNN


NEW YORK (CNN) -- The race to win a new, ultra-fast broadband network from Google is heating up - or cooling off if you're the mayor of Duluth, Minnesota. He recently took a dip in the chilly waters of Lake Superior to get the search giant's attention.

The mayor of Sarasota, Florida tried to make a splash too by jumping into a shark tank to gin up some press.

Other cities are trying more strategic attempts to gain attention. For instance, Topeka, Kansas has temporarily renamed itself Google, Kansas. And Pittsburgh's Mayor has issued a press release outlining an aggressive web marketing campaign urging community members to petition on a grassroots website to get Google to come to Steel City.

"Sarasota businesses such as the Mote Marine Laboratory, which builds communications using high tech gear out on the water, could really use the connectivity to communicate with other research institutes around the world," said Mayor Dick Clapp.

The Florida community, along with other cities nationwide, have all been galvanized by the search giant's proposed plan to build a handful of high-speed broadband networks that offer speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second, which is about 100 times faster than the average Internet connection. Applications to participate in the program are due this Friday, March 26th.

The response has been overwhelming. "We didn't anticipate this kind of grass roots enthusiasm," said Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) spokesman Dan Martin. The message that's being sent is that there's a hunger and appetite for better and faster Internet service."

Google says it hopes to have its first network up and running within a year.

Of course, it's not just consumers who stand to gain from access to lightening-speed broadband. Boosting speeds for Internet users is good for Google too.

"Google wins because the faster the broadband is, the more opportunity it has to develop advanced applications" that will boost revenues, said IDC Research analyst Matt Davis.

Google's announcement comes on the heels of the FCC's proposal to bring high-speed Internet access to 100 million Americans by 2020. In that proposal, the agency noted America's average download speeds of 4 megabits per second rank 15th in the world, according to the latest study from the Information Technology Industry Council.

"Google is hoping that when they show these fast broadband networks that stimulate innovation, the regulators, particularly the FCC who just passed the national broadband policy, will apply pressure to existing providers to upgrade networks more rapidly," said Davis.

Google plans to build a new fiber optic network from the ground up in whatever communities are selected. Then, after that infrastructure is in place, the search giant will allow other Internet service providers to use the network free of charge, and sell access to consumers.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently blogged about his company's plans. "Ubiquitous broadband connectivity can catapult America into the next level of economic competitiveness, worker productivity, and educational opportunity," he wrote, on "The Official Google Blog."

Don Ness, the Mayor of Duluth, Minnesota, recognized the importance of Google's mission to not only on his own city but to the country as a whole. "Communities like Duluth and many others across the nation are looking for the opportunity to be on the next forefront of American commerce," he said, " and we believe that this type of broadband investment will be a key of American prosperity." To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,826.30 -279.47 -1.54%
Nasdaq 4,931.82 -75.98 -1.52%
S&P 500 2,081.18 -23.81 -1.13%
Treasuries 1.85 -0.03 -1.49%
Data as of 3:41am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 15.56 -0.23 -1.46%
General Electric Co 27.25 -0.03 -0.11%
Apple Inc 124.75 -1.42 -1.13%
Comcast Corp 58.42 -1.25 -2.09%
Microsoft Corp 41.62 -0.54 -1.29%
Data as of Apr 17
Sponsors

Sections

Lucas will finance 100% of the project at Grady Ranch and wants Marin County teachers and police officers to be able to live there. More

It's the second big layoff at Schlumberger this year. The oil services company cut 9,000 workers in January. More

The Smokio e-cigarette pairs with an app on your phone to keep track of how much you smoke, and how much money you've saved by not buying tobacco cigarettes. More

The home of some of the most iconic toys has teamed up with a crowdsourcing platform for inventors to find the next great toys. More