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Google dream draws a crowd

About 40 Evanstonians gathered in a Civic Center meeting room Tuesday to strategize about how to persuade Google to build a new ultra-high-speed internet service here.

The search-engine giant announced earlier this month that it's seeking information from communities around the country that would like to be the site for a company-funded test of gigabit internet service, and Evanston officials announced last week that they plan to apply.

Representatives of Northwestern University and the local technology incubator joined the session, along with a variety of high-tech business owners, workers and retirees who live or work in Evanston.

All seemed to agree with one man who said he'd really like to have "a big pipe" for the Internet right to his house.

The proposed network would offer speeds about 50 times faster that the regular high speed internet service now offered by Comcast to homes in Evanston.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said the competition for the Google program is likely to be stiff.

"In the world of city managers this has caused quite a buzz," Bobkiewicz said

"There are 7,000 to 8,000 units of local government in the U.S.," he added, "and maybe they'll get a couple thousand applications."

The field is limited somewhat by Google's specification that it's primarily interested in towns with between 50,000 and 500,000 residents.

The group made plans to hold additional meetings at 6 p.m. every Tuesday for the next several weeks and discussed ways to broaden community involvement in the process, leading up to a public approval of the plan by the City Council ahead of the March 26 deadline for submission of the city's proposal.

One sign that other communities are also getting in on the action — officials in Ann Arbor, Mich., told that town's City Council Monday night that they, too, plan to seek to be Google's choice.

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