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Google Could Quicken Eugene

March 12th, 2010 by dk

Dear Google,
We have read with interest about your Google Fiber for Communities project.
We understand you are planning to build and test ultra-high speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the country. You’ll deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections. You plan to offer the service to at least 50,000, and potentially up to 500,000 people. Your recent announcement seeks to identify interested communities. We may not yet be interested, but we are intrigued. And, we hope, intriguing.
You may have heard about Eugene Free Network. Back in the day, it offered its own utopian Internet vision. Anyone in Eugene could sign up and get a free e-mail and dial-up accounts with It was a pioneer in the field and we loved it, until it became popular and impossibly slow. But that was when the Internet was going to change everything, and before it had.
Your ultra-fast Internet connection holds promise for downloading feature films in just a few minutes, video conferencing with colleagues around the globe, or mapping Bigfoot sightings in 3-D. But can it speed up what most people do most of the time? Can your network get us arguing faster? Can it help us get past the West Eugene Parkway?
That would be good, because we have new controversies that are stuck on the entrance ramp, just waiting for their chance to be argued. Downtown development, Tasers, and a new basketball coach, just to name a few. We’re falling behind and we could use your help.
Your announcement last month gave some clues about what you are looking for in a community. You will favor municipalities that can move quickly and with broad public support. Let’s be honest. That’s not gonna happen here. We’ll have professors taking three minutes of public testimony, diagramming sentences to reveal your true intent. We’ll have parade entries objecting to the specifics of your plan. We’ll have placard-wavers on street corners and lawn signs warning about evil conspiracies.
But look at it this way, Google. If you can make your project succeed here, it will be battle tested in the harshest conditions. You’ll have proven not only that it can work somewhere. You’ll have proven it will work anywhere.
If you pick us, we won’t be grateful. We’ll become sure we should have asked for more, that it’s really some sort of trick, that whatever we’re given was already our entitlement. But there are people like us all over the place, and as your influence expands, eventually you’ll have to deal with folks like us. You may as come here and get it over with.
We understand that you have been gathering applications from interested municipalities for the past month, and that your deadline is March 26. Like many college towns, we never unlearned the value of cramming at the last minute, so it’s not unusual for us to do all the necessary work in the final two weeks.
Ask us sometime about the Supreme Court injunction we failed to secure because we filed our paperwork just a few hours late. We expected to get a finger-wagging and maybe a tardy slip, but we didn’t expect the whole case to be thrown out on a technicality like that. Oh well, live and learn.
We live and learn slowly here, so we’re hoping you can speed things up for us. We love to process everything here, even if it means the world sometimes passes us by. But your little experiment could quicken us. A large part of your investment will be in silicon processors that move much faster and consume less energy. That could help us immensely.
If your processors moved us along at double speed, our future would arrive that much sooner. With your help, by 2015 we could be out of the 1960s, where we’ve been stuck for a very long time. If we maintain that double pace for half a century, we’ll be caught up with every other place by 2060, just in time for a new decade of the Sixties.
Don Kahle ( writes a weekly column for The Register-Guard and blogs.

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