Saturday, February 27, 2010

High-speed networking: City seeks nomination to test Google’s fiber optic system

Why should Google use Newburyport as a test market for its proposed super-fast fiber optic network? Why not, asks City Councilor At-large Ari Herzog.
Aside from the obvious – super-fast fiber optic that would be up to 100 times faster than the current broadband connections – Newburyport is a place of innovation, Herzog said. A resident e-mailed him that in 2009, 42 patents were issued to Newburyport residents or businesses. “That indicates the tech-savvy population of the city,” Herzog said. “The primary reason I’m evangelizing this is not for the city, but for the residents.”
Newburyport has until March 26 to convince Google that the city is the perfect place for a trial of its fiber optic network.
Google is looking for 50,000 to 500,000 households to collectively test the fiber optic network. Details are scare but one thing is clear: the winning community or communities will have a clear edge in access to the Internet.
According to the company’s Web site, Google plans to test “ultra-high speed broadband networks,” in trial locations throughout the nation, offering the service to “at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.”
The new networks will “deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today,” according to Google.
Mayor Donna Holaday has appointed Herzog as the person who will manage the city’s application to Google. He has taken up the challenge and thrown himself into this initiative. He says Google wants to see community support for its project- and some other cities have been doing a lot of things to prove to Google they are serious (the mayor of Duluth, Minn., recently jumped into the icy waters of Lake Superior).
Herzog says that such exposure – the Duluth mayor was taped and the video is on Youtube – could convince Google that Newburyport, a city of about 17,000, is serious.
Google isn’t saying how long the test will last, exactly how much it might cost the host city and/or its residents, whether the test will include public buildings or whether the service will stay in place after the test, but residents and some city officials are enthusiastic.
 “It’s not just for me or for Ari or a couple of other people to say what we could do with it but for others to see how they could use it,” said Mike Strauss, chairman of the energy advisory committee.
He said one application used by many people, Skype, would be enhanced with “a bigger pipe.” Skype is a free video service where one user can call another and with a web camera they can see each other.
“This is just an ordinary person trying to talk to family members and to see them more frequently,” Strauss, a Skype user, said. He said streaming video is another large application that comes to mind.
Herzog said people in Newburyport in the last few years have bought hardware – computers and routers – and that copper broadband connections are near capacity. Cities with a fiber optic network already in place may have an edge, but Herzog is checking on a rumor that Newburyport does already have some fiber optic installed.
“I believe what Google is trying to do is say they don’t know what the future is with (super-fast fiber optic), but they will see what happens (with the test),” Strauss said. “They are looking for a diverse community with all sorts of things going on – and I think we are that kind of community. Newburyport is a microcosm of a much larger city.”
You don’t have to be a resident of Newburyport to nominate Newburyport as a test city.
People and/or community groups and organizations who want to nominate the city can go to and fill out an online form.
Herzog and Strauss will chair a public forum at 7 p.m. on March 1 at City Hall Auditorium to explain the process for residents to nominate Newburyport.

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