Thursday, March 11, 2010

Top Google Search Results for Springfield...

Springfield has put itself in the running to host an experimental new fiber optic system that Google is developing to deliver high-speed internet service.  Recent news reports have surface about Google's plans to enter into the Internet Service Provider market, possibly taking on giants like Verizon's FiOS,  DSL services provided by Verizon and its sister Baby Bells, and Comcast's and other cable companies internet services.  Alternatively, Google itself suggest that the experiment could assist those companies in delivering Internet services for the benefit of all Americans across a wide spectrum of fields and communities.

At the moment, Google's plan is "to experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better, and faster for everyone."  In other words, whichever cities are selected will be laboratories in which Google will improve quality, access, and choice of service.  Communities of 50,000 to 500,000 are eligible.

The competition has already proven itself to be fierce.  An AP report accessed via The New York Times website listed several major cities including, Duluth, Minn, a city roughly have the size of Springfield, Topeka Kan. (which informally renamed itself Google, Kan.), Portland, Ore., Cincinnati, Baton Rouge, Rochester, N.Y., and Grand Rapids, Mich. all of which are larger than Springfield.  A separate report from The Seattle Times confirmed from a press release issued by the mayor of the paper's home city that Seattle would also be a contender. WIBW out of Kansas City, Mo. notes that community's city council enthusiastically supportsed entering the competition.  Unconfirmed reports also have Sunnyvale and Cupertino, Calif,, Washington, D.C., St. Louis, and Boulder, Colo. as potential entrants.

Although a formal list has yet to be compiled and Google has not said how many cities it planned to wire (the proposal's site implies more than one city will be selected), the list features a number of cities each with their own strengths and weaknesses.  Google will consider each communities need, willingness to cooperate, and readiness.  The AP report noted a similar effort to provide Wi-Fi in San Francisco broke down amidst bureaucratic red tape.

Considering these facts, Springfield may have a better chance than some of the heaviest hitters in the competition.  Washington, D.C. and Seattle's populations are in excess of Google's parameters, which could negate their eligibility.  Washington could argue as the nexus of the nation's political infrastructure it should still be considered, but that may actually be a turnoff as it already has access to the power of the federal government.  

Seattle, too, could try to put itself in despite its size because it is known for being a heavily tech-savvy locale.  Again that could prove disadvantageous if Google's plan is partly driven by altruism.  Why would a city ranked at or near the top of "most literate" need this more than other cities.  Similar claims could be made against Portland.  Cupertino and Sunnyvale, the homes of tech companies like Apple and Yahoo! respectively, may be likewise overqualified and too close to Google's hometown of Menlo Park, Calif. near San Francisco.

Springfield's geographically central location in New England could be the perfect branch out point as Google considers and experiments with how its trials could branch out.  The city already sits on major North-South and East-West communication wires that run along the city's railroads and meet just west of Union Station.

The city's three colleges (four if you count STCC), themselves located very near to each other and two major hospitals offer exactly the kind of institutions Google hopes to offer a boost with this new network.  The relatively compactness of the city and it proximity to its most important institutions: the hospitals, the colleges, MassMutual, the Pioneer Valley Life Sciences group would permit Google to lay the same groundwork, but with less ground that needs to be torn up to lay the infrastructure.  Compare this to Kansas City, an impressive, but unwieldy city that stretches across three Missouri counties.  At the same time, Massachusetts rather under-served rural areas are near Springfield allowing Google to easily experiment with newer better connections to the hinterlands.

Springfield City Councilor Mike Fenton of Ward 2 has been spearheading the initiative to get Springfield in the running.  "This project would be a tremendous economic development engine for our area," Fenton said in an interview with the Republican.  Fenton touted the city's educational and health establishments as well as the new data center slated for the old Techical High School building.

Fenton took initiative to set up the city's Facebook page advocating the city's entry into the competition.  In the short time since its establishment membership in the group has exploded, fed in no small part by enthusiasm by young people and tech-savvy residents.   Fenton has been working with the city's law and development departments to prepare a first-class application from the city.  A resolution proposed by Fenton supporting pursuit of Google's project was unanimously approved by the City Council last week.

Development of high-speed internet connections up 100 times faster than current equipment allows would give Springfield an enviable boost to its efforts to develop its own high-tech sector.  As industry has dried up, despite lip-service by past administrations and agencies, the city's economy has taken minimal steps to transition to newer more modern areas of economy.  The medical and bio-tech field notwithstanding, Springfield largely missed the opportunities presented by the dot-com and tech boom of the late 90's.  This initiative could also have the added benefit of making the city more attractive to other unrelated private development as the city seeks to lure jobs and businesses into the city proper.

Even if the city does not make the final cut, it will can still come out a winner.  Given Google's claims that it hopes Comcast, Verizon, and others can learn from their work, Springfield's efforts to win the entry may encourage both the cable and phone companies to invest in Springfield on their own.  With leadership in City Hall committed to attractive high-tech, Verizon may invest the capital necessary to bring FiOS to Springfield.  Tech companies eager to lure or train recent graduates from the area might see city government ready, willing, and eager to provide them with what they need to hit the ground running.  The benefits do not stop have to stop with Google.

The city's official application will include the city's proposal and letters of support from institutions, officials, and citizens.  Individual residents may nominate Springfield at Google's page outlining the program.

*Google logo is trademark of Google.  Fenton photo from City Councilor's website.  Google is the parent company of Blogger and AdSense, the web engine and advertiser service provider of WMassP&I.  WMassP&I does not represent the opinions, services, or divisions of Google.

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