Following on yesterday's post about GSO's opportunity to be a part of AT&T's new broadband rollout -- and the importance of that infrastructure to our economic development -- the last I heard is that AT&T is "interested in working with communities that appreciate the value of the most advanced technologies and are willing to encourage investment by offering solid investment cases and policies," and that "Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan said Monday she hasn’t heard from AT&T."
I assume she's picked up the phone since then.
Beyond that, what's the plan?
GSO actually did a pretty good job of courting Google during the national contest to host its big fiber network.
That courtship generated serious, sustained attention across the community, with organization at the highest level and energy from the grassroots. A key consideration then was not focusing on what Google could do for us, but what we could do for Google -- and letting the company know, in detail.
Time to get the band back together again.
I didn't see anything about this in Friday's report from the City Manager. That was disappointing.
Madame Mayor, please let us know your plan, and what we can do to help bring this necessary project to town.
The research uncovered a few key lessons on what makes certain cities more attractive than others. While a strong quality of life, talent pool and customer base were the most cited considerations, there was also a surprising lack of mention of business-friendly regulation as a factor. City leaders who dedicate resources to fostering these identifiable characteristics have the highest potential of drawing the types of innovative entrepreneurs, companies and jobs that can transform their local economies.
GSO seems like a contender based on these criteria. We've got some real QOL strengths and are working hard on that kind of stuff. Talent pool may be more of an issue, and we're part of a million+ metro region as defined in certain not-entirely-realistic ways.
So, maybe our whale-catching econ dev strategy should be supplemented by more nurturing of local growth companies and our own version of the Mittelstand.
With the prospect of more consolidation in the broadband market, places with competitive providers offering gigabit speeds or even an alternative to the cable/telco duopoly are looking better if Comcast manages to grab a larger market. Google’s plans to build out fiber-to-the-home networks in Kansas City and Austin, Texas, is one example, but even municipally owned networks or places with smaller providers such as Sonic.net may get a boost.
"Gig City," as Chattanooga is sometimes called, has what city officials and analysts say was the first and fastest — and now one of the least expensive — high-speed Internet services in the United States.
..."It created a catalytic moment here,” said Sheldon Grizzle, the founder of the Company Lab, which helps start-ups refine their ideas and bring their products to market. “The Gig,” as the taxpayer-owned, fiber-optic network is known, "allowed us to attract capital and talent into this community that never would have been here otherwise."
After years of pushing the City and foundation leaders to think about digital infrastructure as a key to economic development, I find this story to be kinda depressing. The same location atop big internet pipelines that makes us appealing to data centers could be valuable for other connectivity options as well -- options that the Chattanooga model suggests work pretty well.
Sorry, dead horse, to whack you yet again, but...are our econ dev people looking at the right things and operating off a coherent, 21st Century plan?
We made a decent run at GoogleFi, and then...what?
Seems like a problem that Google could fix by changing its rules and connecting all schools. The filtering issue could be solved by having GOOG pay the $1 million, which the company could find under the couch cushions at HQ, and which would be a huge PR win instead of what's brewing now.
I'm unconvinced that giant low-headcount power-sucking warehouses are all that when it comes to economic development, but you can see how long it took to turn the Google project into a marketing hook -- and that's across the river, not even in KCK.
This isn't a situation of free market vs. monopoly as would be the case if the City decided to compete in the fast food market against McD's & Burger King. This is a case of a business monopoly being kept in check by the potential competition of the City.
We're talking about increasingly essential infrastructure. Greensboro doesn't need Raleigh to tie its hands when it comes to economic development.
"Greensboro needs this badly, whether via Google, or some other means."
Friend speaks my mind.
An email from a local guy who does business on the internet at industrial scale (published with permission):
It looks more and more like Google is working toward becoming an Internet Service Provider, or, more interestingly, putting lines in the ground to allow line sharing with other service providers for a small fee (but preventing said line-sharing monopoly service providers from extorting more money from Google for "enhanced content delivery service".)
This is interesting because it appears Google may be looking at implementing the 1996 Telecom Act line sharing model used in this country to very successfully enable CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier) competition in phone service - which increased choice and significantly lowered prices for phone service (for consumers and businesses) until it was gutted by the prior presidential administration. Hence our current situation, and, we grant the incumbent near-monopoly providers effectively rent-free easements and public rights-of-way for their (unshared) lines.
This line sharing model is used in Europe, Japan, Korea, Scandinavia, all the places that are leaving us behind by orders of magnitude in terms of percent of broadband penetration X speed of connection.
I think people will be shocked at how quickly the installation in Kansas City will transform that local economy. You can bet that a bunch of high-wage paying companies and entrepreneurs are today sizing up the area.
It's hard to see anything else that comes close to the "value creation per dollar invested" ROI of symmetrical gigabit broadband service. Greensboro needs this badly, whether via Google, or some other means.
One thing that worked mightily to KCK’s advantage was the city’s aging infrastructure, Milo Medin, the Google vice president in charge of the project, said as we chatted after the announcement.
Most modern, suburban communities today bury their utility lines. That’s also the case in the newer parts of Kansas City, Kan., he said.
But a large number of the Kansas City, Kan., Board of Public Utilities’ 70,000 customers get their electricity via an overhead line, Medin said, and at that his eyes lit up.
It’s expensive to bury cable, he said. But Google can hang much of its fiber cable from the BPU’s power poles at a great savings to the company and with a minimum of disruption to homeowners and businesses.
Add to that the fact that KCK’s underground lines are encased in conduit that also can accommodate Google’s wiring. (Not all utilities put their wires in pipes.)
The result: Fewer yards will have to be dug up than might be the case in other cities.
“A lot of issues came to the fore, but one of them was the way our utility is set up,” BPU spokesman David Mehlhaff told me.
Ease and cost of buildout were logical considerations. Looks like KCK was able to check a few important boxes. GSO played this card, too, and I think we had something to offer.
Maybe we're still in the running for a hinted-at second site. KCK seems to have impressed with its institutional support. It would be great to see Greensboro's businesses and non-profits fully engaged with a broadband project, whether it's brought by Google or cooked up closer to home.
UPDATE II, from the Google blog (same link as below): "Update 4:15PM: We’ve heard from some communities that they’re disappointed not to have been selected for our initial build. So just to reiterate what I've said many times in interviews: we're so thrilled by the interest we've generated—today is the start, not the end the project. And over the coming months, we'll be talking to other interested cities about the possibility of us bringing ultra high-speed broadband to their communities."
UPDATE: Kansas City, Kansas is the smaller KC -- population a little more than half of GSO, with population density much lower than ours. The huge (2009 assets: $1.75 billion) Kauffman Foundation, headquartered across the river in the big KC, includes "innovation" among its core interests; CEO Carl Schramm says the foundation is "enthusiastically supportive of Google’s initiative," and Google says it will be "working closely" with Kauffman and the University of Kansas Medical Center.
After a careful review, today we’re very happy to announce that we will build our ultra high-speed network in Kansas City, Kansas. We’ve signed a development agreement with the city, and we’ll be working closely with local organizations, businesses and universities to bring a next-generation web experience to the community.
Too bad, but from my limited view a reasonable decision.
Hey, John Blust, why do you want to kill Greensboro's chances to land the Google fiber network?
Our state senator is a co-sponsor of the bill that would place onerous restrictions on municipal broadband services, and possibly scratch North Carolina from Google's list. Opponents describe it as a job-and-innovation killer, too.
Raleigh's city council has passed a resolution opposing the legislation. Zach Matheny says he'll ask the GSO council to do the same tomorrow night.
Irony points to the N&R for hiding its front-pager about the issue in the Google-proof vault.
Alert reader RP, noting that the National Broadband Plan says a reasonable target for local service is 4 megabits/sec for downloads and 1 megabit/sec for uploads, says:
My TW broadband is having node problems nightly that lower download speeds to 1mg. Uverse says deployment in my 27401 (Fisher Park) address is over 12 months.
Why is TW sitting on DOCSIS 3.0 deployment that could boost speeds ten fold?
Complements are, in economic terms, any products or services that tend to be purchased or consumed together, such as hot dogs and mustard or lamps and lightbulbs. For Google, everything that happens on the Internet is a complement to its main business..
...It's this natural drive to reduce the cost of complements that, more than anything else, explains Google's business strategy. Nearly everything the company does is aimed at reducing the cost and expanding the scope of Internet use. Google want information to be free because, as the cost of information falls, we all spend more time looking at computers screens and its profits go up.
From The Shallows, an explanation of Google's many ventures beyond search and advertising that makes sense in terms of its broadband initiative.
Google says its fiber contest received "more than 1,100
community responses and more than 194,000 responses from individuals."
Over the coming months, we'll be reviewing the responses to determine
where to build. As we narrow down our choices, we'll be conducting site
visits, meeting with local officials and consulting with third-party
organizations. Based on a rigorous review of the data, we will announce
our target community or communities by the end of the year.
(click map to enlarg) "Each small dot represents a government response, and each large dot represents locations where more than 1,000 residents submitted a nomination. We plan to share a complete list of government responses and an updated map soon."
You have to think that answers on stuff like "Negotiation of a master pole attachment agreement" will carry a lot of weight, but I think GSO did a pretty good job of making its case in less technical ways, too.
An article about the FCC's broadband plan -- why highspeed internet is important, how to get it on a mass scale, and why it won't happen as quickly as we'd like -- that points to some key advantages of landing Google fiber.
That's because the Internet, like electricity, is a foundational
technology—it sits beneath a wide range of innovations, some that we can
envision today and many we can't. "All text, all audio, all video is
going to go over IP networks—why shouldn't it?" Genachowski told me in
an interview. "Getting a universal electric grid rolled out all over the
country led to a century's worth of new appliances. What we're starting
to see now is a new generation of innovation, and instead of appliances
it will be applications."
It also will be great if you're just sitting around playing Call of Duty.
Below its epic-event coverage of HCR, this morning's NYT front-pages an article about mayors across the country doing goofy stunts to get Google's attention.
I keep saying that a strong response to the RFI and a genuine outpouring of grassroots interest should be more valuable than mayoral hi-jinks in terms of impressing Google, but there's value in a highly visible role for the mayor in terms of getting the public informed and fired up, so I believe that Bill Knight should have done more than be "vaguely positive but
curiously detached" about this effort.
He should find a way to ameliorate the damage caused by his campaign comments on Chief Bellamy, too.
But it sounds like he's been busy, and that he's focused on some nuts-and-bolts stuff that needs attention, and I continue to wish him well and hope for the best.
March 23 is the official Winston-Salem "Google Day" when you can show your interest in becoming a community with ultra-high-speed fiber optic internet service! Offer a Google special-of-the day at your business; decorate your yard, your car, your storefront; sing a song; make an "I want Google" video, Share YOUR photos of what you did for Google Day on facebook; wear Google colors to work!
The official RFI response, along with Google's own internal metrics, will be the critical elements in this decision.
Public response is said to be a factor, and I think GSO's grassroots efforts make a better statement than orchestrated stunts and paid-for publicity. But I do wonder what we're getting for our PR money, which so far seems to have bought less than other cities have managed.
Thanks to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, which this evening unanimously passed a resolution in support of Greensboro's Google Fiber effort. Now we need to make sure the resolution is entered at the nominating site.
I added the Google Fiber Bar to this site, which makes it easier to keep up with what's going on in the local campaign.
The GDS tenth graders were all over this project when I spoke to them at lunch today, I hope we'll see some good content from them soon.
Google is the latest among many entrants in a long-term race to make TVs
more interactive and provide users with additional content from the
Internet. The dominant Web-search company, which has already moved
successfully into software for cellphones, stands to gain additional
revenue if it can move its software and services into TVs.
The official GSO GoogleFi site now links to the Google4GSO aggregator created by Roch Smith Jr. and to the Fiber Bar widget created by Greensboro is Talking.
I hope the City will find a way to let Google know that these are community-generated tools -- like Whitley's List, great examples of public input and a sign of a real creative culture.
The Facebook group has become so popular that it needs to transfer to a new page.
Community Brainstorming sessions will be held at the downtown public library on Thursday, March 18, 6:00pm-8:00pm, and
Sunday, March 21, 2:00pm-4:00pm. It would be great to see folks from businesses, foundations, and development groups turn out in addition to the hippies.
I'm brainstorming about Google with the tenth graders at Greensboro Day School tomorrow.
Jack Whitley, a technology exec at Replacements. Ltd., is on the committee advising City staff on its response to the Google RFI. He came up with a list of things Greensboro offers Google. You can read an edited version after the jump.
The Greensboro Partnership is urging you to vote and show your support for bringing Google Fiber to Greensboro. The more nominations we get for Greensboro to be a testing site, the better positioned we will be to propel Greensboro forward. We only have 10 more days - the Greensboro proposal is due on March 26! So, complete a nomination form and encourage your employees and coworkers to do the same.
Join City of Greensboro staff at tonight’s City Council meeting to show your support for Google. The meeting will be held at 5:30 pm in the City Council Chamber of the Melvin Municipal Office Building, 300 W. Washington St.
Computers will be available outside the Chamber for residents to submit their nominations for Greensboro. Individuals who nominate Greensboro at tonight’s meeting will receive a free Google Fiber t-shirt. Volunteers will also be handing out information on Greensboro’s Google Fiber initiative.
Stay informed about the City's efforts to bring Google to Greensboro by visiting www.googlegreensboro.com.
Cash-strapped city officials understand the competitive advantage that
a high-speed broadband initiative can mean for economics, both business
activity and in-migration attractiveness. It will be interesting to see
how many cities with official pitches to Google continue to seek ways
to fund this infrastructure when they don’t win the Google prize.
The lasting impact of GSO's effort is the subject of my upcoming newspaper column.
I think our campaign is shaping up pretty nicely, although I'd like to see big growth at the FB page and in the number of nominations. That growth should come if people and organizations already in the game pass the word around their own networks.
I heard back from
Rob Clapper, president of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, on my query about GoogleFi.
He says the Chamber is "in full support of the effort" and has been assisting the City by providing information.
I asked him in a follow-up email if he's urged members to join the
Facebook page and to fill out the nomination form at the City site.
He said the Chamber plans to use is website, Twitter, newsletters, and viral means to energize its membership on GoogleFi -- but they're waiting for a request and a plan from the City to do it.
So...maybe this would be a good time for City staff to flip the switch. It might be as simple as emailing Clapper and asking him to notify all Chamber members about joining the FB page and writing a nomination, and having each member company tell its employees the same thing.
UPDATE: City and GP orgs working together on this now.
As the FCC finishes its first-ever national broadband plan, Congress
and commissioners would do the country a service to see it as a jobs
You can believe, as I do, that better internets will breed jobs in many ways, but actually building out the network in the most literal sense -- digging ditches, stringing cable -- seems like an obvious job generator in the short term.
A second email from Linda Shaw about GoogleFi. She plans to speak with some councilmembers today, and also with commissioners Alston and Arnold, "to see what we can do to help."
Greensboro Partnership president Pat Danahy called in response to my query. He says the organization, including Action Greensboro, got involved immediately, but recognizes the City as the center of activity. "We have made ourselves available," he said, providing contacts to the City for key business leaders and informing GP constituents about the project. Danahy was unaware of the nomination form and its importance, but said he'd check it out.
SynerG posted a note about GoogleFi at its Facebook page this morning, urging people to fill out the nomination form and linking to the FB group. Good stuff. I hope all of these groups will send the same messages to all of their members via email, too.
And Roch has started a Google group to discuss the initiative, with messages also appearing at Google4GSO.
I emailed the Guilford County commissioners and the county manager to ask what they're doing to support GSO's Google fiber effort, pointing out that it would be a big win for the whole county, and that I'm unaware of any effort to bring it to High Point, so there should be no conflict facing a county-wide board.
I'll let you know what I hear.
UPDATE 5:05 PM: Commssioner Linda Shaw responds, "to my knowledge nothing has been mentioned to the commissioners and this has been a city council issue. I would personally like to know more and be involved."
I sent her a thumbnail description of the project and its benefits and offered to do what I can to move this forward.
I emailed the heads of the Chamber of Commerce, SynerG, and the Greensboro Partnership to ask what their organizations are doing to support GSO's Google fiber initiative -- what steps have been taken, what steps are planned, and what's being done to get members involved. I couldn't find any info on Action Greensboro's creative culture committee, don't know if that still exists.
"It's almost incomprehensible to me," said Lee Bolin, a Raleigh
resident and IBM software engineer who contacted city officials to urge
them to apply. "It could mean a real shift in how we look at the
Internet and how we deliver content."