Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Bring Google fiber to San Luis Obispo

The ether has been busy with talk of Google dropping into “one or more trial locations” to bless the lucky residents with gigabit Ethernet fiber to the home. An enthusiastic group of San Luis Obispo citizens started to meet and socialize on Facebook, buzzing with ideas on how to get Google’s attention.

For a little background, Google, the search engine and Web application provider, announced that it would be selecting a community or communities to test a home fiber optics project, bringing each house Internet speeds up to 1,000 megabits per second. The simple two-page Web site and short video release by Google left out specifics, criteria or any hints as to what the Google jury will be looking for in a city — just a due date of March 26 for citizens to nominate their town as the best selection for Google’s test.

But what’s all the hype about? I’ll try to break it down by answering some frequently asked questions.

With almost 20,000 cities in the United States, what are the chances San Luis Obispo will be chosen? Numerically, this doesn’t seem like an easy win. Now that this has been in the works for a full month, I am seeing something take shape.

There is clearly a group of cities that are rising to the challenge. None of us knows what Google is looking for specifically, but if they want community action, creative thinking and a true desire to show this progressive company that we’ve rolled out the red carpet for their project, then San Luis Obispo is a contender. Other cities have surely stepped up, but I would optimistically say that we’ve whittled the playing field down from 20,000 to 50.

Gigabit Ethernet to the home isn’t very fast. No wait … it is! The federal government defines “broadband” as 786 kilobits per second or higher. To many, that would seem painfully slow. A T1 line, which has been a traditional form of business connectivity, is 1.5 megabits per second. A good cable connection on a more advanced plan can range between 10 and 20 megabits per second.

Gigabit Ethernet is 1,000 megabits per second. The United States ranks 28th in the world on Internet speed tests. Widespread fiber deployment to the homes could bring us back to No. 1.

Google is becoming a monster. This is surely a plot to take over the world. I wasn’t a fan of the monopoly Microsoft had built in the last decade, and I’m skeptical of any organization’s drive once that level of power settles in. But Google’s philosophy, as stated on its Web site, is one to be admired. It supports net neutrality and focuses on the user/customer, and its goals state that its focus is on providing the best search engine and online applications possible. That’s it.

Is Google to be trusted? I feel the reasons for its successes weren’t accidental, and it continues to hire team members who fully buy into Google’s culture. I trust people, and Google seems to embrace its people.

So why would Google do this? Google’s products depend on high-speed Internet access. Seeing our United States’ broadband rankings, Google too has been waiting for the cable companies to speed things up.

Internet service providers are a thing of the past, and competition has evaporated in the home access market. There has been no incentive for the incumbent carriers to spend money upgrading their networks. Google’s plan is to create this buzz and awareness, show what can be done with high-speed to the home and jump-start the speed revolution. Its focus is not to be an Internet provider. This is a challenge, a wake-up call, an experiment and a great marketing plan.

Other than fast Internet, why is this important? High-speed telecommunications builds economic development. This has been proven and documented. Our community has the ingredients for a great technology sector “green” head of household job base. The notoriety of a project like this will just help to further our brand.

What can I do? Visibly show your support. The more supporters, the better it serves our cause.

Join the “Bring Google fiber to San Luis Obispo, CA” Facebook page. From there, you can link to the Google page that allows for citizen nomination of your city.

Google wants to see that its project makes an impact. Let’s show that we’re up for the challenge.

Tim Williams is the president and founder of Digital West Networks, Inc.