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RapidBlog: Our City (Still) Needs Fiber

Google Fiber

Andrew Rushmore

Andrew Rushmore is a resident of Grand Rapids and owner of Rushmore: Marketing and Media Consulting. His passion for technology has led him to become a futurist, looking for the next advancements that will help provide better solutions to problems we all face in our lives. Andrew can be reached through his website, www.andrewrushmore.com.

Apologies to those reading that thought this story may be about getting their daily dose of fiber. That’s important too, but not the focus of my article. As many may recall, it was only two years ago that Grand Rapids made a significant effort to be considered for Google Fiber. Local companies and important figures banded together to lead the fight for our city, saying “Yes, Grand Rapids wants fiber!” Well, this story hasn’t gone away; in fact, it’s grown into national interest.

Let’s back up for those not familiar. In 2010, Google launched what was referred to by some as an “audacious plan” to build a cutting-edge broadband network in the U.S. Over 1,100 communities applied for this opportunity, with each community leveraging tactics to raise awareness for their town. Sarasota, FL renamed their town to “Google Island” for the duration of the competition; US Senator Al Franken posted a video promoting his support for Duluth, MN; our own city hosted a “Google Fiber Flash Mob” downtown where people rallied with balloons in the colors of the infamous Google logo. In the end, Google awarded their fiber program to Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

To put a perspective on all the ruckus about fiber-optic Internet, Google is offering these two cities Internet access which is 100 times faster than today’s broadband services, starting at $70 dollars a month for 1Gbit/s.

To continue framing why this is important, let’s look at a few reasons why you, the reader, may enjoy having high speed fiber-optic Internet:
  • Capacity over long distances -- fiber Internet carries signals with very little degradation.
  • High speeds mean large data -- Web 3.0 is evolving into a world where data mining done right is becoming part of the next evolution of the web and tech startups.
  • Faster online commerce -- in addition to Amazon.com loading in the blink of an eye, people will be able to download full movies in minutes and stream videos without buffering.
  • Faster service with a lower price -- who wants to pay more for less?
  • Working remotely -- home offices become more viable with telecommuting and file transfers.
  • Medical benefits -- “Telemedicine” is rapidly becoming a buzz word in the medical industries, allowing medical files to be shared, remote consultations, etc.
  • Advertising, marketing and promotions -- with faster Internet, businesses will begin to invest in high-definition video, a potential boom for businesses working with brand promotion.
The list goes on. If you’re not convinced yet, consider what’s already been seen by a city that has implemented fiber (albeit at a higher cost than Google is offering). In Chattanooga, TN the public utility has offered customers 1Gbit/s connections for $300/month. As a result, some amazing innovations are being worked on in the city such as: “instant universal translation; facial recognition in real time at a point of sale or security point; a smart grid for the home that includes device management as well as workstation apps as a service, delivering Photoshop or other CPU-intensive applications via the cloud.”

Google fiber isn’t the ultimate solution, especially as the company recently announced a U.S. rollout would cost them $140 billion. As large as Google is, they 'only' have an estimated $45 billion on hand. Many people see Google fiber for what it is: a sharp jab at an outdated telecom industry that claims their users are happy with broadband. According to a report by the New America Foundation titled “Cost of Connectivity”, consumers in Paris can purchase 100 Mbps Internet, telephone, and television services for around $35 a month The same report contrasts to Lafayette, LA, where the cheapest package runs about $65 and includes only a 6 Mbps connection.

At the end of the day, we don’t know where fiber is heading in the U.S, or how fast. We’re left with the responsibility to promote technological development in our own communities. Chattanooga isn’t the only city. Longmont, CO was looking at a similar plan for Q4, 2012 and Sarasota (or should I say, “Google Island”) has been developing their own infrastructure for a while.

While I don’t have exact numbers for what it would cost our city, the most recent adoption of fiber Internet comes out of Seattle, who is launching the Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program. This program will cover 12 neighborhoods in Seattle as well as expanding wireless coverage, all for $200 million.

From where I’m sitting, fiber-optic is a great bet for our city, especially when we have a thriving community that offers opportunities for startup funding through Start Garden and other opportunities. In the meantime, we’ll keep watching Google’s experiment and hope for faster downloads.

Disclaimer: RapidBlogs are lightly edited and honor the stylistic decisions of the writer. Views and opinions expressed in RapidBlogs do not necessarily reflect the views of Rapid Growth Media or its staff. 

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