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Google delays decision on home for ultra-fast network

Baltimore will have to wait a little while longer to find out if it’s Google’s pick to be a home for an ultra-fast broadband network built by the Internet giant.

Google’s vice president for access services, Milo Medin, wrote on the company’s official blog Thursday that the decision will now be made “in early 2011.”

Google had said a decision would come by the end of the year. The intense interest in the project — more than 1,100 communities responded to Google’s request for proposals — was the reason given for the delay.

“While we’re moving ahead full steam on this project, we’re not quite ready to make that announcement,” Medin wrote. “We’re sorry for this delay, but we want to make sure we get this right.”

Google issued a call Feb. 10 to communities interested in being a test site for the network, touted to deliver Internet speeds on fiber-optic cables more than 100 times faster than the Web access enjoyed by most Americans. Google issued a request for information to identify government organizations and other groups that would be a good fit for the trial. Its application deadline was March 26.

Google hasn’t said how much it plans to spend on the network, though some estimates say it could top $1 billion.

The ultimate goal, Google said, was to make Internet access “better and faster for everyone” — instantly generating three-dimensional medical images over the Web, for example, or downloading a movie in five minutes. A grassroots Baltimore effort quickly formed, using 21st century organizing tools — Twitter, Facebook and Google itself, primarily — to get the company’s attention. The group also launched a website to get the word out.

The city later named Tom Loveland, CEO of Baltimore software firm Mind Over Machines, its “Google czar” to lead the coordination of the effort.

The city’s 19-page application, submitted in the spring, contained reams of statistics on everything from the number of city-owned utility poles in Baltimore (71,000) to the length of communications cables running through its underground conduit system (3.96 million linear feet, accessible by 14,000 manhole covers).

The “Baltimore City Municipal Response,” as it’s called, for Google’s Fiber for Communities project was designed to appeal to the Internet giant’s obsession with data, local organizers said, long seen as a tool to maximize company performance and efficiency and, in this particular instance, find the best possible partner.

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