Sacramento-area towns get creative to win Google network

Sacramento-area towns get creative to win Google network

From Davis to the Sierra foothills, Sacramento-area cities are joining the rush to become one of the chosen sites to test-launch Google’s new ultra-high speed experimental Internet network.

The Internet giant announced in February it wants to build super networks in an unspecified number of areas and invited applications from governments, companies or even individuals who want their communities to get the high-tech wiring.

But filling out the forms just isn’t enough for some. Across the country – and close to home – applicants are getting creative in their efforts to get Google’s attention.

In the Sierra foothill hamlet of Nevada City, townsfolk on Sunday paraded down Broad Street, carrying aloft a giant, multicolored beach ball.

The ball symbolized Google’s proposed high-speed fiber-optic network compared to current network speeds – which were represented by a tennis ball. The huge ball was dubbed a “Googlebit,” playing off Google’s plan to create a network that delivers a 1-gigabit-per-second connection.

The good-natured parade was tame stuff compared to some efforts.

A mayor in Minnesota dived into frigid Lake Superior to show his city was worthy of the new network. Topeka, Kan., briefly renamed itself “Google, Kan.” The mayor of Sarasota, Fla., swam with the sharks.

Soggy stunts, name changes and colorful parades aside, this is serious business.

At stake is a chance to receive a network Google says will be more than 100 times faster than standard home Internet service and otherwise might cost communities millions of dollars to build.

A number of Sacramento-area cities are jumping at the bait. Along with tiny Nevada City (pop. 2,929), Davis, Folsom, Roseville, Sacramento and West Sacramento either have applied or are preparing to apply for the opportunity, city officials said. Each is eager to make its case.

“There’s a community of creativity and science here,” said John Paul, co-owner of Spiral Internet, a Nevada City Internet service provider working with city officials to try to lure the Google project. “We’re clearly saying, ‘Let us be the rural area to test in.’ “

The Nevada City-Grass Valley area long has been a hub for video production and other technology, with companies such as the Grass Valley Group calling the area home.

Davis is an early pioneer in community Internet service, said city information officer Rich Guidara, and is home to a highly regarded research university, a Web-savvy populace and the infrastructure to make a such a project viable.

“There’s an atmosphere here of wanting to push the technology,” Guidara said.

West Sacramento, which already is covered with Wi-Fi, touts its recently opened Sacramento City College satellite campus, its efforts to attract relocated businesses and infrastructure improvements geared to fiber optics.

Folsom, too, is optimistic, as is Sacramento, which hopes to “send a message that we’re in a position to take advantage of (Google’s) technology,” said senior project manager Melissa Anguiano.

Roseville has a long history as a Silicon Valley north – with Hewlett Packard and other high-tech companies represented – and is home to two hospital groups at which digital-record transfer is an important issue. The city has ordinances to allow for more home-based businesses, is still miles from build-out and has visions of new college campuses and fully wired, smart-city specific plans.

“Not only are we home to high tech, but Roseville is a very savvy digital community,” said Deputy City Manager Julia Burrows.

It hopes its ace in the hole is application partner SureWest Communications, whose stock-in-trade is its fiber-to-home broadband services. Officials from Roseville-based SureWest estimate it has readied nearly 23,000 Roseville homes for fiber-to-home service and about 150,000 homes throughout its Sacramento service area.

But time is running out before Google’s March 26 application deadline, and competing cities number at least in the dozens, from Bellingham, Wash., to Kissimee, Fla; Chapel Hill, N.C., to Palo Alto.

Mountain View-based Google announced the Google Fiber for Communities project on Feb. 10, but details are still scarce.

The fiber-to-home connections will be provided to somewhere between 50,000 and 500,000 people, according to Google officials, and there’s no word yet on how, when and where the high-speed network or networks will be set up.

Google officials did not respond to requests for comment, and its 26-page application packet is vague.

However, the application reads that Google is “interested in working with communities in which it can rapidly install fiber-optic facilities and offer ultra-high-speed Internet access services.”

It also asks applying communities how many utility poles and conduits they have and which entity owns or controls the poles; how fees and charges are calculated; and what types of regulatory issues would apply to Google.

/ Billiard Tours, Industry

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