Google fiber: Palo Alto loses out to Kansas City

A Midwest city has beaten out all Silicon Valley contenders, including Palo Alto, to become Google’s first fiber-optics-wired city, executives announced Wednesday (March 30).

Kansas City, with a population of 145,786, was chosen out of 1,100 cities that applied in 2010 for the “Google Fiber for Communities” project, sponsored by the Mountain View tech giant.

The ultra high-speed fiber-to-the-home connections will provide Internet access at 100 times faster than typical broadband services, the company said. Fiber transmits light over fiber-optic cable — a strand of glass as thin as a hair — to send and receive data. It is far faster than electric signals sent over metal wires.

Palo Alto officials and technophiles aggressively wooed Google, creating a video and deluging the company with e-mail in support of bringing fiber to Palo Alto. The city sent a letter to the company last month seeking to further define its history and connections with Google in a last-ditch bid for the project.

But in the end, less tech-connected Kansas City won out.

“We were absolutely blown away by the leadership — the mayor, the city staff, the utilities as well,” Google General Manager Kevin Lo said in a YouTube video.

A company spokesperson did not elaborate on the reasons the Midwest city was chosen or where Palo Alto ranked in the contest, but Kansas City Mayor Joe Reardon said in a press release that “the wonderful diversity of our community, neighborhoods and industry make Kansas City, Kansas a microcosm for the rest of the country.

“When you combine these assets with our well-established track record of development partnerships, we feel Kansas City … is the perfect location for Google to launch its fiber project.”

In selecting a city, the goal was to find a location where Google could build efficiently, make an impact on the community and develop relationships with local government and community organizations, the company stated in its blog.

“We’ve found this in Kansas City. We’ll be working closely with local organizations including the Kauffman Foundation, KCNext and the University of Kansas Medical Center to help develop the gigabit applications of the future.”

Pending approval from the Kansas City Board of Commissioners, the service would be running beginning in 2012.

Kansas City officials and business leaders were ecstatic.

“I don’t know if Google Fiber has actually gotten to the point where you cab sense smells over fiber, but I think it’s something y’all should start thinking about, because that would certainly sell more barbecue,” Cindy Cash, president of the Chamber of Commerce, said of the city, which is known for its slow-cooked-style grilled meats and sides.

The Kansas City project will be the first of a handful of cities to receive Google fiber, the company spokesperson said.

“We want to thank Palo Alto and the hundreds of other cities across the country that expressed interest in our project. This was a tough decision, and we want everyone to know we carefully considered every application. We’ll be looking closely at ways to bring ultra high-speeds to other cities across the country,” she said.

Palo Alto City Manager James Keene said he congratulates Kansas City.

“To bring fiber to the heartland of the country, I appreciate the symbolism,” he said.

“We hold out hope again in the next phase that Google will be thinking about us. We look forward to the opportunity in the next wave” of city selections, he said.

Palo Alto has been working on a high-speed Internet project for nearly 15 years but has not yet been able to garner the funding for its “Fiber to the Premise” (formerly “Fiber to the Home”) project.

Funding through a consortium of telecommunications companies collapsed in 2009 after one of the partners dropped out and the city was asked to contribute between $3 million and $5 million per year for the network. City officials decided not to fund it. City Council members have called for little or no expenditure from the city’s general fund for the fiber project.

In July 2009, the city considered trying to get $8.8 million in federal-stimulus money, but that plan fell through when funding guidelines restricted the money to Internet-deprived communities.

City officials had hoped a Google fiber-to-the-home project announced last fall for Stanford University would make fiber to Palo Alto the next logical step.

Google announced it would install the fiber network to about 850 on-campus faculty residences. Palo Alto is currently working with Stanford to become the fiber-optic carrier for the project, Josh Wallace, account representative for the city’s fiber service, said on Wednesday.

In the next two months, the city expects to receive results from two studies evaluating the potential market for a municipal fiber system and to attract private investment dollars.

The city submitted a proposal last week to the Palo Alto Unified School District, seeking to become its fiber-optic Internet carrier, Wallace said.

Google was briefly located in Palo Alto in 1999 and many company executives call Palo Alto home.

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Posted by Charles, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Mar 30, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Just as the above Google Fiber was being posted, Milo Medin, Vice President, Google Access Services provided this update:

“We’ve heard from some communities that they’re disappointed not to have been selected for our initial build (Kansas City). So just to reiterate what I’ve said many times in interviews: we’re so thrilled by the interest we’ve generated — today is the start, not the end of the project…over the coming months, we’ll be talking to other interested cities about the possibility of bringing ultra high-speed broadband to their communities.”

An objective expressed by Google Fiber for Communities was to serve up to 500,000 people. According to the 2010 census, the population of Kansas City, Kansas is about 145,800; for Palo Alto about 64,400.

As City Manager Jim Keene said, “We hold out hope again in the next phase that Google will be thinking about us. We look forward to the opportunity in the next wave” of city selections, he said.

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