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City gets googly eyed over Google fiber

A task force of Evanstonians who hope Google will choose our town for the test of the firm's proposed ultra-high speed internet access service meet again at 6 p.m. tonight at the Civic Center to develop the city's application.

A city promo banner for 'Google Day'

That comes  ahead of what the mayor has proclaimed as Google Day in Evanston on Wednesday, March 24, two days before the company's March 26 deadline for communities to respond to its request for information from towns interested in the service.

The vision of gigabit fiber optic service direct to the home — 100 times faster than most current service — has spawned a fury of activity in communities across the country, and it's hard to assess where Evanston might stand in wooing Google's interest.

Just as one example, the Ann Arbor, Mich., City Council signed on to the project Monday night and — whoa! — Ann Arbor has nearly 12,000 fans signed up for its Google fiber Facebook group on the project, compared to less than 300 for Evanston's similar group.

And Ann Arbor claims to have an edge because Google co-founder Larry Page graduated from the University of Michigan in 1995.

At least dozens of other towns around the country have also said they're wooing Google's interest.

Google's request for information document suggests it's not looking for a town where it will face a lot of obstacles to fast deployment.

"Above all," the document reads, "We're interested in deploying our network efficiently and quickly, and are hoping to identify interested communities that will work with us to achieve this goal."

That doesn't necessarily mean waiving all the usual rules, as the document also says, "Google respects the legitimate responsibility of local governments to preserve and protect community assets, minimize disruption, ensure the safety of the public, address aesthetic concerns and property values, and obtain reasonable compensation for the use of public assets."

But it goes on to ask for much detail about who controls access to utility poles and conduit in the community, what access fees they charge, and seeks detail about issues surrounding access to the public right of way.

Some analysts have suggested that Google might never actually build the fiber network, but instead use the threat of building one as a prod to other providers to increase their bandwidth offerings, comparing it to Google's bid for spectrum space in 2008.

And of course, as with any potential alliance or infatuation, there's the risk of a breakup down the road — what appears to be happening now to Google's relationship with Apple, as reported in Sunday's New York Times.

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