Baltimore tries to lure Google project

Under Armour to assist effort to gain ultra-fast fiber-optic network

March 12, 2010|By Gus G. Sentementes | gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake turned Thursday to civic leaders and athletic apparel maker Under Armour Inc. for help in luring a high-profile Google pilot project to Baltimore. She also appointed a "Google Czar" to spearhead the effort.

Baltimore is one of many municipalities vying for Google's attention. The Mountain View, Calif., company recently launched a project called Google Fiber for Communities and plans to develop ultra-high-speed broadband networks in one or more locations across the nation.

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. Baltimore-based Under Armour, known for its slick advertising campaigns, will provide marketing help.

Rawlings-Blake picked Tom Loveland, chief executive of technology company Mind Over Machines, to be the volunteer "Google Czar."

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, according to Google.

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

Loveland will be working with the Mayor's Office of Economic Development and Neighborhoods to complete and submit 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 industries and "a growing population of entrepreneurs who are trying to make a difference in the community."

Technology advocates in Baltimore have launched a Web site, BmoreFiber.com, which is documenting the extent of support for bringing the project to Baltimore. More than 1,600 people have expressed their support through the site, which features videos by Gov. Martin O'Malley and Andres Alonso, chief executive of Baltimore's public schools.

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