Yesterday, Google product manager James Kelly posted a blog post stating that 600 communities applied to be a guinea pig for the search giants experimental fiber network. And 190,000 individuals wrote letters of support for their communities to be chosen. But the post was written with 5 hours until the deadline, so it was expected that more cities would apply to be chosen by the end of the day on Friday. Yesterday night, Kelly updated the post with the final tally: 1100 communities submitted applications, and 194,000 individuals posted letters of support for their communities.
Google also posted a map showing the locations of the applications and letters of support. Each small dot represents a government response, and each large dot represents locations where more than 1,000 residents submitted a nomination. It appears that applications centralized around both coasts, with a few of the central areas of the U.S. noticeably lacking in participation.
We wrote about the great lengths many cities and towns were taking to catch the attention of Google, in the hope that the search giant would choose their community for its fiber network. The broadband network would be completely free for the chosen city (only the consumers using the services will be charged) and the 1Gb/sec fiber would be roughly 100 times faster than what most Americans get today for Internet speeds. Google’s plan is to reach anywhere from 50,000 to 500,000 people with this experiment.
In terms of the application process, Google asked that interested municipalities fill out a Request for Information (RFI) to help determine the best community for the experiment. Google estimated that each form/request from cities would take around 4 hours to complete. Individuals and citizens can also submit letters of support for cities. The next step, says Google, is to review all of the city applications and individual letters of support, perform site visits, consult with third-party organizations as well has communicate with local officials in cities of interest. A final city/town is expected to be announced by the end of the year.
Google’s broadband plan is designed to compliment the U.S. government’s ten year broadband plan, which among other goals, wants to subsidize broadband connections in rural areas, and bring 1-gigabit connections to every community in the U.S. But there are a number of flaws with the government’s strategy, namely that the plans aren’t ambitious enough. For example, under the new plan, some 85% of homes covered would have no choice when it comes to a provider, possibly locking users into higher prices because of a lack of competition.
So at then end of the day, Google represents a small beacon of hope in that it could provide a concrete example for other communities or broadband providers to follow. And while Google’s initial plan involves a fiber network at a very, very small scale, if all goes well, Google could end up expanding the project nationally.