Google Fiber bypasses Baltimore, goes to Kansas

Kansas City wins nationwide competition for high-speed Internet network

March 30, 2011|By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun

Google Inc. awarded an experimental, ultra-high-speed network to Kansas City, Kan., on Wednesday, bypassing more than 1,100 other communities, including Baltimore, that applied for the pilot project in a kind of high-technology lottery.

Last February, Google said it would choose a community in which to design and build a new fiber-optic network that would connect thousands of homes to the Internet.

But not all hope is lost for Baltimore and other cities. Google officials indicated that Kansas City could be the first of several communities to receive Google Fiber. Google expects to launch the new network in Kansas City next year.

"In selecting a city, our goal was to find a location where we could build efficiently, make an impact on the community and develop relationships with local government and community organizations," Milo Medin, Google's vice president of access services, wrote on a company blog Wednesday.

The Google Fiber plan calls for delivering a download speed of one gigabit per second to connected homes — roughly 100 times the speed of current average download connections for most Internet users. Google, which has $35 billion in cash on hand, wants to spur development of such networks partly as a way to invest in the future of its own business, which relies heavily on people using the Internet constantly.

Some analysts have estimated that Google could spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the project. In return for its investment, Google plans to sell consumers access to its network at a "competitive price," the company has said. And the company also will allow other firms to offer connectivity services to consumers through its network.

Supporters of such ultra-high-speed networks say that enabling this kind of connectivity will create and enable new business models and help generate advances in endeavors from telemedicine and education to digital entertainment and workplace interactivity.

Baltimore's political leaders and technology professionals embraced the city's efforts to attract the Google Fiber project. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake named Tom Loveland, chief executive of Owings Mills-based Mind Over Machines, as the city's "Google czar."

The mayor also appointed Loveland and others to a new Broadband Task Force, charged with looking at Internet infrastructure options for Baltimore beyond the Google Fiber initiative.

Dave Troy, a Baltimore entrepreneur who helped organize the city's application for the Google Fiber project, said Baltimore could still see advances in its broadband future, with or without Google.

"I am disappointed but still hopeful," Troy said in an email. "And regardless, the process spawned an exploration of how we might go about doing this ourselves."

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