Iowa City Stories

May 14, 2010

Google to provide internet for select test market cities

Google will be adding yet another task to their resume later this year and is expected to experiment with ultra high speed internet in selected test market cities which will be approved via submitted applications.

Google embarking on a new project is hardly something new, rather it’s something that seems to go hand-in-hand nowadays.

Fiber Optic Internet

Back in February, Google Inc. announced their plans to launch ultra-high speed internet via fiber optic cables in selected test market cities. Since then the response has been extraordinary. Thousands of communities have submitted applications to Google, in hope that the mega-tech corporation would choose their city as a test market.

“Google is launching an experiment to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in one or more trial locations in the United States,” said Minnie Ingersoll, Product Manager on Google’s alternative access team.

That’s sounds great, but what exactly is a fiber optic cable, and what does this technology involve?

What is Fiber Optic Technology?

To simplify, fiber optic technology is a revolutionary way of transferring data via cables. Instead of using a copper wire to transmit data like traditional wires today, fiber optic uses mirrored light — that’s right light — to transmit data much faster and much more efficiently.

Fiber Optic technology uses light to transmit data. (Photo by Lawrence Lawry)

However, Google is not looking to build a nationwide network and become a major player in the internet service provider (ISP) game. Even though Google will not be topping any major ISP’s, this is still great news though for everyone — ranging from the tech-junkie, all the way to the college student who simply wants to be able to download movies off iTunes faster.

“Our goal is to experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better and faster for everyone,” Ingersoll continued. “We want to see what developers and consumers can do with ultra high-speeds, like creating new bandwidth-intensive “killer apps” and services, or other uses we can’t yet imagine. We also want to test new ways to build fiber networks, and intend to operate an “open access” network.”

Jay Ford, Senior Network Engineer for the University of Iowa ITS-Telecommunication & Network Services, says that fiber optic provides the University with better data transformation than copper.

“It is much more efficient, yes,” said Ford.  “While we still a bit of copper, we have plenty of fiber optic wiring within our network, and it allows us to have a higher optimal flow and less network problems.”

Potential for Iowa City and Surrounding Communities

Iowa City and the surrounding communities saw this as an incredible opportunity, and UI student Karl Taylor started a Facebook group called “Nominate Iowa City for Google Fiber” which currently has over 1,000 members.

The Facebook group also links to the official Google Application site, and also created — which stands for Iowa City Area Broadband Coalition. Both of these sites are aimed towards representing the Iowa City area and convincing Google to chose Iowa City as a test market.

According to Google, there are many factors that come into play in determining accepted test market cities.

“We’ll use our RFI to identify interested communities and to assess local factors that will impact the efficiency and speed of our deployment,” said Ingersoll. “Such as the level of community support, local resources, weather conditions, approved construction methods and local regulatory issues. We will also take into account broadband availability and speeds that are already offered to users within a community.”

“Above all,” continued Ingersoll, “We’re interested in deploying our network efficiently and quickly, and are hoping to identify interested community partners that will work with us to achieve this goal. We plan to consult with local government organizations, as well as conduct site visits and meet with local officials, before announcing our final decision.”

One thing that stands out to me, is when Ingersoll says, “We will also take into account broadband availability and speeds that are already offered to users within a community.”

It is no secret that Iowa City’s internet speeds are quite low, and as a state, Iowa has one of the lowest internet speeds across the nation. This may help boost the application of Iowa City, along with community support.

Since March 26, applications are no longer being accepted by Google, but during the six-week period in which applications were accepted, the turnout was great for Iowa City.

A map shows the turnout of applications submitted, and although Iowa City doesn’t have the largest area, the turnout was great given the population ratio compared to a city or region such as San Diego.

But out of all the cities that accepted applications, why would Google choose Iowa City?

“The Iowa City area is an advertiser’s wet dream,” said Taylor. “You’ve got a dynamic community of 18-25 year olds — the age bracket everyone wants a piece of. The area is home to a number of entities (corporate and otherwise) that work very closely with “big-name” spenders, like the Federal Government. Our approaches to education are of global notoriety. There’s a nice balance of traditional and modern American paradigms amongst citizens–there’s even a mixture of rural and urbanized environments.“

While Google has not made an announcement on the city(ies) that they have chosen as a test market, those from Iowa City and the surrounding communities must feel that they have a decent chance to be picked. While it will be doubtful to be the only city picked, Google may very well pick multiple cities as test markets, and Iowa City could indeed be one of the cities picked.

“I would love it if Iowa City was picked,” said Kelly Wadell a Computer Science major at the University of Iowa.  “Fiber Optic internet would allow us to tap into immense potential as far as the digital world is concerned.  The speed and efficiency of data transformation would be incredible to experience at your home PC.”

While we are left to play the waiting game on the official word from Google, residents of Iowa City and the surrounding communities should feel like they have as decent of a shot as any to be selected by Google.



  1. […] as no surprise that fiber optic technology is utilized within the network.  I discussed earlier how fiber optic works, and how local internet companies are implementing fiber optic, and the University is no […]

    Pingback by The University of Iowa’s Network (ResNet) and Fiber Optic « Iowa City Stories — May 14, 2010 @ 8:37 pm

  2. […] Google Fiber Optic […]

    Pingback by Fiber Optic Internet: What, Where, and Why. « What's Good with Sports — May 14, 2010 @ 8:42 pm

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