Austin ranks 5th in Google competition

Published 7:51 am Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Austin’s still in the mix for Google’s competition to bring high-speed fiber Internet to a U.S. town.

Google Austin, the campaign to become part of Google’s experiment to bring gigabyte high-speed Internet to a random American town, has renewed its efforts to get Austin among the top cities in the social media contest. The city has climbed to No. 5 out of almost 1,100 that have applied, according to rankings by

“The race isn’t over,” said Craig Hoium, Austin’s planning and zoning director. “We want to make sure we put the best effort forward in being considered as one of these communities.”

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Members of Google Austin found out three weeks ago Google extended its deadline for the social media competition, which was supposed to end with the end of 2010. According to Hoium, Google representatives were expecting about 300-400 applications, not the 1,077 they received when the contest started last spring.

When they found Austin was ranked ninth overall, committee members decided to spread the word amongst area businesses and groups to see if Austin could climb a little higher.

“Basically, we just kind of got the word out again,” said Corey Haugen, Austin Public School’s director of information technology. “Aside from plugging the committee’s website,, Haugen left messages on the school’s information system letting students, staff and parents know they can join Google Austin’s Facebook page, which helps Austin’s standing in the race.

“That’s pretty much all we did, kind of did a digital barrage of ‘Hey, we’re still in the running for this,’” Haugen said.

Google officials take how many people in a town support a community Facebook page, group or Twitter feed and divide that number by the town’s population. Austin, which had languished in 12th place for a while, climbed to ninth in January. Since Google Austin renewed its campaign, Austin shot up to fifth place, with almost 13 percent of the community supporting its efforts.

It’ll take a lot people more than the almost-3,000 strong Google Austin Facebook page has to overtake the competition frontrunner, Chanute, Kansas. While Chanute’s population is about 9,000 according to 2009 census estimates, the city has almost 29 percent of its population supporting its campaign for Google.

Austin still has hope, however. According to Hoium, Google representatives have said they may choose up to four communities to test their high-speed fiber Internet. Google representatives were unable to comment as of press time. If Austin residents continue to support Google Austin, incredibly fast Internet could quickly be a reality.

“If we were selected by Google as one of the communities to receive that service, it would be just a tremendous, positive thing for the community, probably one of the biggest things to happen to Austin,” Hoium said.