Mayors of cities applying to be Google’s chosen test bed for its offer of free ultra-high-speed broadband network will go to great lengths to try to be the chosen one, it seems

The mayor of Duluth, Minn., threw himself into the ice-ringed waters of Lake Superior. In an act of oneupmanship, the mayor of Sarasota, Fla., immersed himself in a tank filled with bonnethead sharks. And the mayor of Wilmington, N.C. said that he would jump out of an airplane — with a parachute, thankfully.

As reported here last week, Berkeley is preparing its own application to Google, which is offering a network with speeds of one gigabit per second — or 100 times faster than many of today’s high-speed connections. According to the New York Times, hundreds of cities are expected to apply before the deadline on Friday — meaning a stand-out bid might help prevent disappointment.

So Mayor Bates. What’s it to be?

Tracey Taylor

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

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  1. Yeesh, the guy above is so contrarian. Work through the issues with some faith and positivity. He brings up some good points, but shhaaaa, don’t be so Debbie Downer…

  2. This is shockingly bad reporting.

    a) None of the cities are “applying” for anything. Google has issued an RFI (request for information) not an RFP (request for proposals). There are no contracts on the table.

    b) It seems unlikely that completing this RFI will cost the City of Berkeley less than 5 figures (some 10s of thousands of dollars, primarily in labor hours). Google will benefit from closely held research data. Google will benefit from generously donated marketing assistance. The expected return on investment for Berkeley is sufficiently uncertain it ought to be accounted for as $0.

    c) The NY Times article that you failed to properly link to, here:

    makes the claim that Google will build this infrastructure “at no charge”. That claim is not substantiated by anything in Google’s press releases and, in any event, does not speak to the question of costs to the municipality (rather than direct “charges” by Google). It is a safe bet that Google doesn’t want to leave municipalities with a “bum deal” but not that it is cost free to municipalities. Even the proposal that Berkeley City Council approved notes “The target community in which the project will take place will likely be responsible for some of the costs associated with implementing the network, although the extact commitments are unknown at this time.”

    d) Should Berkeley win an eventual bid and this program is deployed, the high-speed service will, Google assures, be offered “at competitive rates” (whatever that means). The City of Berkeley has given no attention to the question of whether the priority ought to be the availability of high speed connections, or the closing of the digital divide.

    In short, the City here has not only endorsed a private commercial interest but contributed from the City coffers to the advantage of that interest – with no reasonable expectation of a return or any indication of how this effort addresses so much as a single civic priority.

    Yes, there should be some “go jump in a lake” activity: led by Messrs Moore and Wozniak and followed close on by all on the Council who voted yea. The purpose of this lake jumping would not be to impress Google so much as to right a karmic deficit created by a gross dereliction of duty.

    On the other hand, one might disagree with my assessment. Fair enough. In that case I would like to remark that I’m interested in starting a small grocery and convenience store near San Pablo and Ashby, in which I will also (if plans come to fruition) house an Internet Cafe with public terminals available. I am issuing an RFI for officials of the City of Berkeley to analyze the feasibility of such a project by studying and reporting the available retail spaces, sources of funding, zoning and other permitting issues and so forth. Their response is invited by a deadline of Apr 1, 2010. I do intend to sell things from this store at a competitive market rate and to serve at least 10s of thousands of unique customers per year. I am confident, as I am sure everyone should be, that this experimental project will benefit many. Bringing my project to fruition may require some spending on the part of the City in particular to ensure that local civic infrastructure is up to the task, perhaps also to assist with financing the project. I look forward to receiving the benefits of 10s or 100s of hours of City staff time preparing a response to this RFI.