The Bellingham Business Journal
Bellingham mayor Dan Pike announced Feb. 25 that the city will ask Google to consider Bellingham for its Fiber For Communities initiative, after hearing a resounding “go for it” from more than 600 area residents and business owners who are enthusiastic about the opportunity.
“There is great interest in us pursuing this opportunity, and there are tremendous benefits if we are successful,” Pike said. “We’re a small city with big ideas, an ideal testing ground for Google’s fiber installation. We’ll work on an application jointly with other local organizations and people who share our excitement about this project.”
Google recently announced plans to test ultra-high speed broadband networks in one or more trial locations across the country. Google officials have asked interested municipalities to provide information by March 26 to help them decide where to build their networks.
After Google’s announcement, local technology and business development experts and others contacted the City, encouraging local leaders to promote Bellingham for this opportunity. Before pursuing it further, Pike asked more community members to weigh in. In addition, a survey posted on the City’s website solicited opinions about pursuing the Google project and ideas for how ultra-high speed internet service might be used in our community.
In six days, 643 survey responses were recorded, with 95% of respondents answering “yes” to the question “Should the City of Bellingham submit a proposal for Google’s Fiber For Communities Project?”
People who expressed support for the project listed many reasons Bellingham would benefit, including:
• Leading-edge technology would make the city more competitive for business development, especially in green industries and those that provide high wage jobs.
• Internet service to homes and businesses would be improved, allowing for unlimited new educational, recreational and professional uses of technology. Many people noted improved Internet service would support them to start or continue working from home offices, reducing their need to commute to an office.
• Users would have more service choices at reduced costs, due to increased competition with current providers.
• The infrastructure would spur innovation in technology, education, health care, engineering, video and many other areas, fostering ideas that are not feasible with the technology now available.
Those who said Bellingham should not pursue this initiative cited concerns about privacy, potential cost to the City, other more pressing priorities, or said they didn’t have enough information to provide thoughtful feedback.
Pike said he has been asked how much money the City would have to invest in constructing an ultra-high-speed fiber network. He said he wants to make sure people know that Google will build the fiber infrastructure; the company is not asking municipalities to build networks or to fund construction. If Bellingham is selected and agreement reached with Google, the City’s role will primarily be regulatory and permitting matters.
For more information or to see survey results, visit the city’s Web site www.cob.org.