When Google announced its competition for communities to test its ultra-high speed Internet, municipalities across  the country responded vocally. Towns talked about changing their name to Google to attract interest, community groups made a clamor about how wonderful a test bed their city would be. From Berkeley there was silence initially.

“We were all figuring out what it was,” says Donna LaSala, Director of the city’s Department of Information Technology. LaSala has led the city’s effort to put together the application for Google’s Fiber for Communities scheme, which will provide 1 gigabit per second fiber-to-the-home connections for an unspecified number of cities. Berkeley’s application will be filed before the deadline.

The City Council approved the work for the application on a proposal jointly drafted by Councilmembers Darryl Moore and Gordon Wozniak earlier this month.

According to LaSala, the online application would make a 21-page document, as Google has solicited a raft of information about aspirant communities. Applications are due next week, less than two months after the launch of the project. “It was a pretty darn quick turnaround time,” LaSala says.

In typical Google fashion, the search behemoth has been vague as to what criteria it will apply in determining the winning communities. “It’s not very clear, except that they want to be able to do it ‘efficiently and quickly’,” says LaSala. The application asks about issues like terrain and density, but it’s unclear whether a dense community or a flat terrain is good or bad. Google also has not specified how many communities it will select. Other issues, such as the long-term cost for cities selected have also not yet been clarified.

“It’s smart of us to apply,” LaSala says. “Nobody wants to preclude an opportunity.”

Lance Knobel

Lance Knobel (co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine in Britain,...