Last Friday, Sunriver joined an estimated 1,100 other cities and communities in responding to Google’s Fiber for Communities Request for Information (RFI). By now everyone has probably heard of the “Google fiber” initiative, with cities like Topeka, Kansas changing their name to Google, Kansas (if only symbolically), and mayors doing stunts like jumping into nearly frozen lakes in front of rolling YouTube cameras – all in hopes of gaining Google’s attention.
Sunriver took what we think is the “high road” – preferring to make a business case to Google. Our major selling points are:
- Reach – for the cost of wiring 6,000 homes, Google would expose the benefits of gigabit fiber to over 1 million visitors per year. These visitors come for holidays and vacations, as well as business meetings and conferences based at Sunriver Resort. Compared to Topeka – Sunriver can reach 10 times the people at 1/10 the cost.
- Shovel Ready – Sunriver is governed by an owner’s association (SROA) and owns and controls its own roads and utility rights of way. We are served by Chambers Cable – and Sunriver is the only cable system Chambers owns. The SROA board voted unanimously to approve the Google fiber project, and we have gotten enthusiastic support as well from Chambers Cable. Both entities are ready to “dig for Google” starting as soon as possible. We also have fiber to the node throughout the Chambers Cable system, and over 90 miles of conduit to over half of the homes.
- Education – Sunriver is served by Three Rivers Elementary – a K-8 school in the Bend Lapine School District. Three Rivers has the slowest Internet connection in the district. In addition, over 62% of its students qualify for the federal free or reduced cost lunch program due to their family economic status. We are over 20 miles from the nearest higher education facility and high school students are bused 20 miles to Bend.
- Telemedicine – Most medical services are over 20 miles away in Bend. Many of our retired residents end up moving to Bend as they grown older and need more medical care. Google’s RFI envisions “ sitting in a rural health clinic, streaming three-dimensional medical imaging over the web and discussing a unique condition with a specialist”.
- Impact – Portland, Seattle and similar large cities have all applied as well. As many of us know, these are excellent cities and great places to “be from”. The impact of Google’s project on Sunriver will be immediate, large and very measurable. The impact on larger cities will be much less immediate, obvious or measurable.
- Proximity to Google HQ – Sunriver has its own airport – which can support both business jets and turboprops. We are just an hour flight by jet from Google’s Mountain View headquarters.
Finally, TechSpace Bend came to our help and illustrated our need last week. We produced a 10 minute HD YouTube video as requested by Google, and I needed to upload the final cut to YouTube from Sunriver. I have a Qwest 6 mbps connection, but was getting horrible upload speeds that caused timeouts each time I tried. Thanks to Robert Kieffer I was able to come in to TechSpace and in about 20 minutes my upload was done! I am planning to sign up for TechSpace, and hope to be able to open the Sunriver branch of TechSpace later this year – when we get our Google Fiber of course!