Opinion

Group wants Bainbridge to be Google’s test site | Guest Column | Bob Fortner

Last month, Internet search giant Google announced an audacious experiment to connect 50,000 to 500,000 people to an ultra high-speed fiber network roughly 100 to 1,000 times faster than what home users experience today.

Google plans to test one gigabit-per-second fiber to home connections in one or more trial locations throughout the country. Google’s call to action requires municipalities to respond by March 26.

On Bainbridge Island, word of Google’s call to action spread quickly. Interest showed up in the popular Island Moms online community, among the Chamber of Commerce members, and at City Hall.

As a community group coalesced to pursue the opportunity, the City Council named Barry Peters and Kirsten Hytopoulos to support this effort.

After struggling for a seeming eternity with dial-up, our interest in higher speed connectivity resulted in extremely rapid uptake of DSL connections.

But according to recent bandwidth reports, Bainbridge Island’s average Internet speed is roughly one-half that of Turkey’s average Internet speed. It’s about 1/20th that of the world leader in connectivity, Japan.

One member of the steering committee observed… “I have had significantly faster Internet access on my phone, in Morocco, than I am able to get in my house on the south end of the island right now.”

Consequently, it’s not possible for our community to participate in the modern digital world with DSL; you can’t video chat, watch Hulu, or Netflix on demand without significant stuttering. We’re not even close to prepared for tomorrow’s digital world – one that will require moving around very large files with ease.

That’s where bringing Google broadband to Bainbridge gets exciting. It is exciting that aside from monthly subscriber fees there is no cost to the taxpayer.

Gigabit access is fast... like downloading 50 uncompressed High Definition television channels simultaneously fast. It’s so fast, that applications have not been developed since not enough people in the U.S. have that sort of speed.

For example, with this speed, our kids can have a full projected video wall to talk to their pen-pals in our sister town, Kobe, Japan.

Architects, artists, musicians and legal firms all produce large digital files. One islander, a movie editor, has large files delivered on hard drives by Fed Ex. Broadband eliminates that need. Working, creating and sharing will be greatly enhanced for residents and business!

It will also give us an edge in attracting and retaining high-tech, high-touch companies whose presence will enrich our community in myriad ways and provide living-wage employment opportunities for years to come.

Representatives from the city, Islandwood, Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Bainbridge Island School District, Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce, and interested community members are stepping up to make an application for Google to bring fiber-optic access to the island. We could use some help!

– Go to www.googleforbainbridge.org and read how to send in a personal request for Google to come to Bainbridge.

– Tell your friends about googleforbainbridge.org.

– Think of other applications for high-speed access coming to Bainbridge, and tell us about them at googleforbainbridge.org.

Our community application is a grass-roots, collaborative effort and it faces enormous competition from communities around the country. Topeka, Kansas renamed itself Google, for the month of March and others have very spiffy Web sites already well developed. We have many unique aspects to our community which do not need reiteration here, but they surely do in cyberspace.

We are calling on community members to develop ideas, videos, and personal stories and especially to tap the creative imaginations that live and thrive on Bainbridge to upload these to the googleforbainbridge.org Web site.

This site will make the most powerful statement to Google about how we, as a community, want to go into this digital future.

Recall, if you saw the film, Avatar... the scene at the temple after their tree home was destroyed.

As the forest people streamed into the temple area, they sat and plugged their fiber optic tails into the “network,” which lit up and pulsated with the power of their interconnectedness. That can be ours on Bainbridge.

Bob Fortner, Steve Goll, Ken Sethney, Kevin Dwyer and others involved with GoogleforBainbridge collaborated on this piece.

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