I’m feeling lucky

Internet giant Google has announced plans to provide ultra high-speed Internet connections to a very lucky, soon-to-be-chosen city.

Internet giant Google has announced plans to provide ultra high-speed Internet connections to a very lucky, soon-to-be-chosen city. The city would serve as a testing ground for the company’s new Google Fiber, an all fiber optic network that allows one gigabit per second download speeds—about 100 times faster than most of the country. More than 1,100 cities have submitted bids, including Portland. Do we have what it takes to grab this golden ticket?

In honor of Google, I would say, “I’m feeling lucky.” Portland has a better chance than Charlie Bucket in serving as Google’s testing ground. Other cities in the country are clamoring to gain Google’s attention with interesting but desperate pleas. Topeka, Kan. was the first when it renamed itself Google. Duluth, Minn. promised to name all the town’s firstborn children after Google. The mayor of Duluth even jumped into the currently frozen Lake Superior.

We won’t see Mayor Sam Adams swimming the Willamette any time soon, and for good reason. Portland is perfect for this project, and the rest of the country knows it. I’ll admit, we have had a few ploys to attract Google’s gaze. Hopworks Urban Brewery has launched a Gigabit IPA and a local glassblowing company has introduced a Google-inspired pipe that works with tobacco products among other substances.

Mayor Adams has organized a group of Portland’s geekiest to serve as ambassadors for the city, including Ward Cunningham, the inventor of the Wiki, Intel executives and advocates for Net Neutrality including the Personal Telco Project. Not to mention Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, who lives in Lake Oswego and has expressed interest in Google’s network.

The City of Portland has created a Web site, www.portlandheartsgoogle.com, to showcase our Google-friendly attributes. We were the first to endorse “open access” broadband Internet, meaning small Internet service providers would have the same rights to infrastructure as physical owners like Comcast or Qwest. Google is a leading advocate for open access networks.

Google is seeking a city with 50,000 to 500,000 residents. In 2009, Portland had about 580,000. I say that’s close enough. Fiber is also a green initiative, something Portland is no stranger to. According to www.pdxcommunityfiber.com, fiber optics in the home will save millions in energy costs and allow our city’s already significant telecommuting workforce to possibly increase.

Portland has also been trying, and failing, to create municipal Internet for over a decade. Remember the MetroFi disaster?

MetroFi, a fledgling company from California, promised to provide free, high-speed Web access to Portland by the summer of 2008. Portland spent $250,000 on planning and an official’s salary, and all we had to show for it were strange antennae on street posts throughout the city. A company like Google would provide the stability and strength that Portland needs to finally make good on its promise to provide Internet as a utility.

Our current fiber optic networks are limited to the suburbs where Comcast and Verizon have laid down infrastructure as cities have grown. Qwest, the phone company that owns all the phone lines in Portland, has been slow to offer fiber optics for the city. With all the buzz around Google, Qwest has been advertising its “fiber optic” comparable connection that offers 20 mbps. However, that is a comparable connection—they aren’t really using fiber to the home, the way Google plans to.

Brace yourselves, it’s about to get really nerdy. Qwest’s fiber optics exists only from the neighborhood terminal to the Internet. But from that terminal to your home, they use regular old DSL. According to tech journalist Michael Weinberg, Qwest simply moved the DSLAM (the device that creates the DSL signal on the phone line) into a box in your neighborhood, and connected that back to their main office with fiber optics. Google will offer the only true fiber optic network with one gbps speeds directly to your home.

Portland has worked hard for years to become a world-class leader in creative technology. Google has a state-of-the-art facility right here in Portland, Intel’s research division is located in Hillsboro at Jones Farm, and two men who have changed the world, Ward Cunningham and Linus Torvalds, have chosen Portland as their home. With many of our creative techs out of a job right now, this is a perfect opportunity for Google to choose Portland as its new home for ultra-fast Internet.