City names volunteer 'Google czar' to go after broadband

March 11, 2010|By Gus G. Sentementes | gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on Thursday turned to civic leaders and a top local company for help in luring a high-profile Google pilot project to the city and appointed a volunteer "Google czar" to spearhead the effort.

Rawlings-Blake said the Greater Baltimore Committee, a group of more than 500 businesses and nonprofits, and the Economic Alliance of Baltimore, the region's main marketing organization, will assist a grass-roots campaign to catch the attention of the online search giant. The mayor also announced that Baltimore-based athletic apparel maker Under Armour Inc. will provide marketing help.

Baltimore is one of many municipalities across the country vying for Google's attention. The Mountain View, Calif., company launched a project called Google Fiber for Communities, where it plans to develop ultra-high speed broadband networks in one or more locations across the United States. Google has said that its new fiber-optic network would deliver Internet speeds "more than 100 times faster" than what most people have access to today.

The next-generation Internet connection would be offered to residents at a competitive price, Google has said.

To gauge the public's interest, Google launched a Web site that allows local governments and residents to express their interest in bringing the project to their communities. Cities across the country have embarked on publicity stunts to attract Google's attention, such as Topeka, Kan., changing its name for one month to "Google, Kan."

Rawlings-Blake picked Tom Loveland, chief executive officer of technology company Mind Over Machines, to be the volunteer "Google Czar." Loveland will be working with the Mayor's Office of Economic Development and Neighborhoods to complete and submit details on Baltimore's proposal to Google by the March 26 deadline.

"We aren't pursuing stunts; we don't need to," Loveland said. "We're building a strong case on the facts."

Loveland said the Baltimore region has world-class resources in its universities, hospitals and private industries, and "a growing population of entrepreneurs who are trying to make a difference in the community."

Technology advocates in Baltimore have also launched their own Web site – BmoreFiber.com – which is documenting the support for bringing the project to Baltimore. So far, more than 1,600 people have expressed their support through the site, which also features supporting videos by Gov. Martin O'Malley and Dr. Andres Alonso, chief executive officer of Baltimore's public schools.

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