Minn. cities vying for super-fast Internet wait for Google's replyby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — For the past month, they've put together crazy YouTube videos and Tweeted away about what a super-fast Internet connection would do for their communities.
Now city officials across the country will have to wait to see whether their communities will be among the lucky few to host Google's ultra-high speed broadband network.
Friday is the deadline for communities to apply for the initiative. By the end of the year, Google will choose one or more trial locations to test out the network, which will deliver speeds more than 100 times faster than what most people have.
Several communities in Minnesota are applying for the initiative, but Duluth has gotten the most public attention for its efforts to get Google to pick the medium-sized city on Lake Superior.
Friday was declared "Google Twin Ports Day" by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who also featured Duluth Mayor Don Ness on his weekly radio show.
And a marketing firm in Grand Rapids, Mich., whichi is monitoring and measuring each applicant's Web presence aimed at attracting support for their Google pitch, announced Thursday that Duluth remains in the lead out of 90 cities nationwide.
"We've put together a very competitive campaign," Ness told Pawlenty on WCCO-AM Friday, noting that Duluth's Web presence -- including YouTube videos, Facebook posts, Twitter mentions -- beats out cities like Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Austin, Texas.
Google's new fiber network would deliver the Internet at connection speeds of more than one gigabit per second, and cities applying for the initiative say it could provide many benefits. For example, hospitals could use the high-speed connection to see a patient remotely.
"We think it's a game changer," Ness said. "Every institution, every element of our local economy will be touched by this."
Ness kicked off Duluth's campaign last month by jumping into icy Lake Superior. Cameras captured the moment, leading to the city's first YouTube video to promote the effort.
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., then helped put together another promotional video that used some old clips from the '80s. The Franken video has been viewed nearly 77,000 times, and Duluth's effort on Facebook has more than 18,000 fans.
Overall, Duluth's effort to attract Google's initiative has been mentioned in some 1,200 independent locations on the Internet, including tech blogs and media sites, said Patrick Garmoe, spokesman for the Google Twin Ports Fiber Initiative.
While Duluth might be the most popular choice for Google's experiment, it remains to be seen whether the city's application will also catch the Internet giant's attention.
Duluth isn't the only Minnesota community applying for the program. While the others acknowledge the attention the city has received, officials in other communities say the package they're sending to Google today is more important than the publicity.
"We've been keeping our eyes on the business side of the application," said Bill Coleman, who is heading Dakota County's effort to persuade Google to come there.
Coleman said the county was already taking steps to encourage technology-centered economic development through an initiative called Dakota Future, which has been around for five years. He wondered if some cities were putting too much emphasis on the publicity and weren't ready for Google's project.
"We've emphasized to Google that if they want to get on the train that's already running, it would be a good choice to work with us," Coleman said.
Besides Dakota County, four cities within Dakota County -- Burnsville, Eagan, Apple Valley and Lakeville -- are applying on their own as well as with the county. The cities of Austin and Falcon Heights are also competing.
Both Coleman and Garmoe agreed that it wouldn't be the end of the world if their communities aren't chosen. In Duluth, Garmoe said the effort has made businesses and residents ready to embrace fiber Internet whenever it does come.
"We've shown that we can really rally behind something like this," he said. "We definitely knew from the start that this is going to bring good things."