Columbia courts Google for ultra high-speed Internet

The network estimates to be 100 times faster than an average connection.
Keith Politte, manager of information technology for the School of Journalism, discusses bringing a trial of Google's high-speed Internet network to Columbia on Tuesday in the Reynolds Journalism Institute. Politte asked students for input on what Google could learn by testing their experimental network in Columbia.

Citizens and government officials believe Columbia is a prime candidate for an ultra high-speed broadband Internet network Google is developing.

The company is looking to offer this trial service from 50,000 to 500,000 customers. Government officials and citizens can nominate cities they feel should participate in the test.

The network, estimated to be 100 times faster than an average connection, would offer speeds up to 1 gigabit per second, the company stated in a post on its official company blog, authored by product managers Minnie Ingersoll and James Kelly. This is fast enough to download a full-length high-definition movie in less than five minutes, the post stated.

Regional Economic Development Inc. is a leader of the effort to bring Google's network to Columbia.

"We want to facilitate a community discussion, so we can submit a good proposal for the RFI (the application Google has distributed)," REDI President Mike Brooks said.

Community members and businesses have also gotten involved, setting up a Web site, comofiber.net, a Facebook page and a Twitter feed devoted to bringing Google's network to Columbia. The Reynolds Journalism Institute is helping to host dialogues to encourage students and the general public to get involved and to gather feedback from them.

"Every quantum leap of technology brings a jump in opportunities: educational, commercial, and many others," RJI Technology Testing Center Manager Keith Politte said. "We just want to jump on this and see how far we can push innovation."

Politte is helping students learn how they can get involved in the campaign.

Columbia is not the only community making serious efforts to become one of the trial locations. Cities all across the country, including large cities like Seattle, have announced their intention to be one of Google's testing grounds.

"Our town could benefit from this, and Google could learn a lot from us," said Amberly Engert, True Media social media manager and MU graduate.

Engert created the Facebook page promoting Google in Columbia.

Politte stressed MU's presence and the student body could be valuable resources to Google, especially in terms of the university's resources in media, medicine and life sciences.

"I know that Google is looking at education very seriously," he said. "We offer many, many high-ed resources that should be extremely attractive to Google."

In the post, Ingersoll and Kelly stated the possibilities for the network would be vast, including students interacting in a 3-D university lecture over the Internet.

Google's network will not only lead to immediate innovations in delivering information but will establish MU as a research and development center for the latest information technology, Politte said.

"What we would be able to do with that is prototype services for the future," he said. "So we would solidify the university as a go to think-tank for the future of technology."

Derrick Ho, a journalism graduate student, said he hopes Google's network will not only provide faster Internet access to business and the affluent but will help bridge the digital divide between the poor and rich.

"I think there are ways that need to be worked around how to get people access to that," he said. "Especially people in more rural areas."

All nominations for cities trying to participate in the pilot program are due by March 26.

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