Welcome to the United States of Google
If everything isn't already up to date in Kansas City it soon will be, thanks to Google. After more than a year of hemming and hawing about where to build a superfast gigabit-per-second broadband network, the search advertising everything giant has chosen to bestow its broadband largesse upon the citizens of Kansas City, Kansas.
What I want to know is, just how pissed off is Topeka right now? To persuade Google to lay some fat pipe around its town, the city changed its name to "Google, Kansas," for a month last March. Google acknowledged the gesture by renaming itself Topeka last April Fool's Day. Topeka must have figured it had a lock. Instead, the city 60 miles to the east gets the nod. That's got to sting.
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Topeka was not the only city willing to humiliate itself for the opportunity of having a 21st-century fiber network built for it, free of charge. More than 1,100 cities put their hands up, and some did much more:
- The city of Rancho Cucamonga threatened to rename itself Rancho Googlemonga -- because if you already have a ridiculous name, you have nothing left to lose.
- In Sarasota, Fla., a floating public park was renamed "Google Island." Only an island? Seriously? No wonder it didn't make the cut.
- Duluth, Minn., Mayer Don Ness jumped into the frigid waters of Lake Superior -- in February, no less -- to demonstrate how Google could use that natural resource to cool its overheating servers. Or maybe he's just nuts.
- Some 2,000 citizens in Greenville, S.C., spelled out the word "Google" by holding LED glow sticks in an effort to get the company's attention. Wonder how many people it will take to spell out the word "losers."
They're all crying into their beers (or in Ness's case, a big steaming mug of hot cocoa) right about now. In fact, it appears that several of them got in touch with Google to complain about it, because the original blog post by Google veep Milo Medin announcing KC as the winner contains this update:
We've heard from some communities that they're disappointed not to have been selected for our initial build. 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 the project. And over the coming months, we'll be talking to other interested cities about the possibility of us bringing ultra high-speed broadband to their communities.
Why is Google building out a gigabit speed network? Because it can. This network is a big petri dish for Google, an experiment in both how to build out a network and how it can be used.
Mind you, the fine people of Kansas City aren't getting away with a freebie. Google has announced it plans to charge "competitive rates" for access to the network, as well as share the wealth with other cities down the road -- which means that one day Google may be planning to compete directly with telcos and cable companies for your broadband dollar.
A couple years back many people may have applauded Google's entry into the fat pipe business as a welcome shakeup to the broadband duopoly that exists in most cities. But after the year Google just had -- the Nexus One fail, its China embarrassment, the WiFi-spying debacle, and this week's public spanking by the FTC over its Buzz privacy faceplant, to name but a few -- I suspect people are a wee bit more wary. Even if they aren't, federal regulators probably would be.
No matter. It's pretty clear that it's Google's country, we just live in it. Welcome, citizens, to our geeky new overlords.
What would life in the US of G be like? Posit your theories below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article, "Welcome to the United States of Google," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Track the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.