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February 22, 2010

City, County and UVA considering application for ultrafast Google fiber

Reader comments (1) DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, February 22, 2010

Google wants to build a faster internet, and local officials are making the case that the search engine company should do so here.

Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the University of Virginia are considering making a joint application for a pilot program that would install fiber-optic cable allowing for broadband speeds up to 100 times faster than what the community currently enjoys.

According to Chris Engel, the city’s assistant director of economic development, Google is asking for communities to apply to its “Fiber for Communities” program as a way to experiment with different ways to install the infrastructure.

“It would be unlimited bandwidth beyond comprehension at this moment,” Engel said. “It may in fact attract individuals with ideas to come here and start companies. It could also attract some existing companies from elsewhere – ones who need this type of access.”

City Council discussed the idea last Tuesday night and directed staff to work with county and university officials to make the application. Councilors cited the success last year when the city and county successfully received a $500,000 grant from the Southeastern Energy Alliance last year.

“I looked through what Google was requiring in terms of a response and a lot of it had to do with what your existing infrastructure is, what your laws are,” said Councilor David Brown. “I think they want a place where they can go in and not have a lot of regulatory obstacles."

One potential obstacle against the community is that neither the city or county own the electrical infrastructure. Engel said Google will likely favor a place where it can get easements relatively easily.
Engel will work with the county’s information technology department and UVA’s vice president of research to gather information. The deadline for the application is March 26.

Anyone interested in nominating this community can do so independent of government efforts. Residents and community groups are being asked to submit information. Google’s survey asks questions about upload times, service frequency and costs. 

“They’ll somehow combine those responses with the official governmental application,” Engel said.

John Feminella, a principal consultant with Distilled Brilliance, said the benefits could be faster service delivered at a comparable cost. He said the creative community will benefit if Google does decide to experiment here.

“For those people, being able to share and collaborate more effectively can only be a good thing and stimulate more creativity,” Feminella said.


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