Despite heavy lobbying by city boosters, Baltimore was not picked as the beta site for the Google Fiber high-speed, broadband project.
Baltimore had been one of 1,100 cities vying to be picked by the Mountain View, Calif.-based company to be a test site for a fiber-optic network capable of delivering Internet speeds 100 times faster than typical service providers. Google said Wednesday it had chosen Kansas City, Kan.
“In selecting a city, our goal was to find a location where we could build efficiently, make an impact on the community and develop relationships with local government and community organizations,” wrote Milo Medin, Google’s vice president for access services, on the company’s official blog. “We’ve found this in Kansas City.”
Google said in February 2010 it wanted to hear from communities interested in becoming the test site. A request for information was then issued to find the best fit for the initial program. The deadline to submit an application was March 2010.
To make Baltimore’s case, a task force, BMoreFiber, was created. The coalition included individual volunteers, the mayor’s office, the Greater Baltimore Committee, and the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore. Since its inception BMoreFiber has used Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Google itself to tout the city as the best option. A website, BMoreFiber.com, was also launched to bolster Baltimore’s case.
The news that Baltimore was not selected did not surprise the task force, which had been planning for that contingency as it met over the past year.
“I’ve been saying that while Baltimore certainly had a strong case, the odds were pretty tough — 1,100 to 1,” Mind Over Machines CEO and task force co-organizer Tom Loveland said. “So, we’ve had to figure on a Plan A to raise Baltimore’s profile and a Plan B — what are we going to do if Google doesn’t come?”
Loveland, who was named Baltimore’s “Google czar” by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said the meetings and discussions over the past year had the expected bonus of finding new ideas to increase broadband access to city businesses and residences.
One of the biggest developments and potential boons to the spread of high-speed Internet access is the One Maryland Broadband Network. A $115 million stimulus-funded project, OMBN will build more than 1,200 miles of high-speed Internet line to 1,006 government facilities and community “anchor institutions” in every county in the state. The new network is expected to reach 2 million homes and 443,000 businesses, with work starting in the next few years.
“I was saying early on that if the whole Google thing turns out to be a hoax, or doesn’t happen for some reason, then God bless them because they got the city and nation talking about the future,” Loveland said. “We saw the future and wanted that future, and now with things like OMBN, we’re going forward.”
In addition to the state project, Google also left the door open to potentially expand the project to other cities.
“Pending approval from [Kansas City’s] Board of Commissioners, we plan to offer service beginning in 2012,” Medin wrote on the blog. “We’ll also be looking closely at ways to bring ultra high-speed Internet to other cities across the country.”
Dave Troy, CEO of Distilabs Inc., and a task force member and co-organizer of BMoreFiber, said the group will continue to meet and explore ways to enhance broadband access at the municipal level in case the search giant does not select Baltimore if it expands the program. But, he said, the task force and the city presented a strong case, which should put it on the short list if Google starts looking again.
“There’s every reason to believe Baltimore is in the running for this going forward,” Troy said. “We’re not out of the game yet.”