Area leaders submit official application for Google Fiber

Published 11:58 am Saturday, March 27, 2010

With the click of a button Friday, Austin applied to bring Google Fiber to Austin, but the process to land the ultra-high speed broadband is far from finished.

Austin community leaders held a brief event at 11 a.m. Friday to submit the formal application for Austin to become one of the cities to test Google’s ultra-high speed internet that’s more than 100 times faster than regular broadband.

More than 100 videos have been posted to the campaign’s Web site —, according to Austin Area Chamber Director Sandy Forstner. Along with thousands of hits to the site, people have also been following Austin’s pitch to Google on Facebook or other online media.

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“It’s been a whirlwind of activity in our community over the past 10 days,” Forstner said.

Formal applications were due Friday. Though Google announced its intention to test its super fast internet in select cities in February, Austin didn’t begin a campaign to land Google Fiber until last week.

However, a number of area organizations and leaders have backed Austin’s pitch for Google Fiber in a short time. Hormel Foods Corp., Austin Medical Center, the Hormel Institute and Austin Public Schools have all joined the pitch to bring Google Fiber to Austin.

“We’re sending a clear message that we want Google Fiber to come to Austin, and I think we’re a very good fit,” Forstner said. “We may have entered into the game a little late, but we certainly got into the game very quickly once we entered it. And we have some very positive things in our community that would provide Google with an excellent model for their experiment.”

Though he didn’t attend the event Friday, Hormel Foods CEO Jeff Ettinger said company officials have been excited to be involved in the initiative.

“It just was fun to be part of a process that got the community so engaged,” Ettinger said.

Ettinger said the Internet is an important tool the company uses for things like video conferences with Hormel’s facilities around the world, data streaming and backing up key information.

“We just think it would be a real nice thing to have for the community in general, and for businesses as well,” he said.

But Austin is not alone, as many of other communities across the country are vying for Google Fiber. Duluth and Superior, Wis. are jointly seeking Google’s selection, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty supported that bid by naming Friday “Google Twin Ports Day.”

Austin also had support from Minnesota representatives Friday, as Rep. Jeanne Poppe and Sen. Dan Sparks both attended the event to back Austin’s pitch for Google Fiber. Sparks said Google Fiber could have a strong impact on private citizens and businesses alike.

“It just would be a wonderful addition for the city of Austin,” Sparks said.

Austin High School juniors Jay Ettinger and Michael Lindhal spoke about how Google Fiber could change the way students learn in Austin.

“The fast Internet will give the school district a better way to educate students,” Lindhal said.

While Jay said some students aren’t familiar with Google Fiber, he said a lot of students are excited about the opportunity to bring Google Fiber to Austin. A number of students have made videos and posted them to the project’s Web site.

Austin Public School’s math department is looking into buying new math text books, and Lindhal said the new textbooks are accompanied by many online resources.

“With the faster Internet, that will make using these resources much easier for the students and faculty,” he said.

Many teachers use YouTube videos for educational purposes in class, and teachers could load them quicker with Google Fiber, Lindhal said.

As one area leader joked, it would also change the way teens play Halo 3.

While the formal deadline was Friday, Forstner encouraged people to continue their support for the Google Fiber on the Web site.

Even if Austin isn’t selected to test Google Fiber, Forstner said the campaign has been a success because it brought the city together.