Google’s fiber-optic network won't debut in SLO

It was hoped that the technology would promote area’s green, high-tech businesses

March 30, 2011 

San Luis Obispo has lost its bid to become the first test site for Google’s ultrafast fiber-optic network.

After Facebook pleas and flash mobs, and even cities temporarily renaming themselves “Google,” the search engine giant announced on its official blog Wednesday it has chosen Kansas City as the first place to get its new broadband network.

“We’re disappointed, obviously,” said David Garth, president and CEO of the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce, “but it was a totally positive exercise. … We’ve focused people’s attention on how important bandwidth is to business development.”

As the inaugural site for Google’s “Fiber for Communities” program, Kansas City will receive Internet access that is up to 100 times faster than the broadband connection in most U.S. homes.

The service, which will provide Internet connections of 1 gigabit per second to as many as 500,000 people, will be offered beginning in 2012 while Google looks at other communities across the country.

More than 1,100 cities made bids to become a test site for the company’s fiber-optic network, trying to catch Google’s attention and show their enthusiasm.

A year ago, about 200 people turned out in San Luis Obispo for a rally as part of the “Bring Fiber to San Luis Obispo” initiative organized by Amy Kardel, co-founder of Clever Ducks, a computer network consulting business.

The “Bring Google Fiber to San Luis Obispo, CA!” Facebook page has more than 4,000 members.

Local technology leaders had hoped that gaining Google Fiber locally would help brand San Luis Obispo as a place to locate green, high-tech, well-paying businesses.

Garth cited a 2010 chamber survey of tech businesses throughout San Luis Obispo County and Santa Maria in which bandwidth was cited as the top limiting factor to business growth.

Local tech company Digital West, having witnessed the enthusiasm for bandwidth from the local business community, is developing a plan to provide fiber-optic networks locally after Google opted out, Garth said.

“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 in a post on Google’s official blog. “We’ve found this in Kansas City.”

Google has said it’s not interested in dominating or even grabbing a sizable chunk of the broadband market. Instead, it is dipping into its $35 billion bank account to build the ultrafast network in hopes of prodding telecommunications and cable providers to upgrade their services in communities across the country.

It also hopes to provide a test-bed for online video and other advanced applications that require a lot of bandwidth.

If more data can be sent through Internet pipes at faster speeds, Google believes, people will spend more time on the Internet — an activity that typically enriches the company by bringing more traffic to its dominant search engine and producing more opportunities to show revenue-generating ads.

Unlike many of Google’s Web-based applications, Kansas City’s Internet access using Google’s pipes likely won’t be free. On a question-and-answer page at its website, Google did not give specifics on its pricing plan, but said the company plans to offer the service “at a competitive price to what people are paying for Internet access today.”

— Julia Hickey, Associated Press

• • •

The Estate Planning Council of San Luis Obispo County, which includes trust companies, life underwriters, attorneys, certified public accountants, financial planners and affiliated professionals, is operating under a new board.

Its 2011 board of directors includes: Adi Ringer of BridgePoint, president; Cindy Wolcott of Rabobank, vice president; Barry VanderKelen of the SLO County Community Foundation, treasurer; Jon D. Pollock of Morris & Garritano Insurance, secretary; and Joan M. Broadhurst, an attorney, past president.

The mission of EPC of San Luis Obispo County is to keep current on estate planning law and techniques to monitor services provided to the public, according to a recent news release.

— Julia Hickey

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