Dan Christ and Steven Chan write in to point out the Google Fiber for Communities project, and ask that I help get Bend on the radar. In a nutshell, Google is doing an experiment where they run a fiber network to between 50,000 and 500,000 homes, providing gigabit internet access. That’s 17X faster than Bend Broadband’s fastest plan, and 120X faster than what most of their customers (myself included) sign up for.
Google is taking nominations for which community they should start with. You can do that here. and I’d urge you to do so. There’s no harm in trying, right?
But this really begs the question:
Why would (or wouldn’t) we be a good candidate for this?
I’ve jotted down my list below but I can’t say I’m confident that this equates to a compelling argument. I’d love to hear what others think.
It will help stimulate our economy. Our county struggles with a 14+% unemployment rate. We are also geographically isolated. And we don’t have a 4-year college (with apologies to OSU Cascades for that, but that’s the popular sentiment around here.) Thus, not only will this bring much needed attention to the area, and allow us to attract new businesses, it will also help open the door for online education opportunities for a lot of out-of-work people.
We have a tech community that knows how to take advantage of this opportunity. We have a growing tech population, many of whom telecommute for companies/customers outside the area. Fast, reliable, internet service is vital to this community and Google’s service won’t go unappreciated.
This also opens the doors to some innovative uses of the technology. For example, while cloud computing may be all the rage, gigabit speeds combined with unlimited bandwidth make it possible for people to host their own websites right out of their home. People could run websites on those spare Mac Minis they have, rather than pay Amazon’s $60/month fee for a small EC2 instance, that. (That said, it also opens the door to some epic fails in self-hosting)
We already have a good ISP. Some may disagree, but Bend Broadband is a pretty damn good ISP compared to what most of the country has to contend with. They consistently lead the industry both for the better (first HSPA+ network) and for the worse (bandwidth caps). And they’ve got great customer service. For the average broadband customer around here, I’m not sure a Gigabit ethernet connection makes all that much of a difference. If you have more than a 10MBit connection, more often than not, you’re download speeds are limited by something other than your local ISP.
Anyhow, that’s all I can come up with this morning. It’s not exactly a compelling list, is it? The bit about stimulating the economy feels like a good argument, assuming Google cares about that sort of thing. But how does that benefit google? How does it help them evaluate the possibilities this service offers?
If you’ve got thoughts on the matter, I’d enjoy hearing your comments.