No one knows exactly how much Google plans to invest in its ISP business, but its reputation as cash giant alone has cities from Anchorage, Alaska, to Sarasota, Florida battling to become the search giant's new test market.
Faster than you could say Google Fiber (though not faster than the company's proposed gigabit speeds) metros whipped up Facebook pages and took to Twitter to raise awareness and offer instruction on how to nominate their hometown. FastCompany.com combed through this rapidly growing list of cities and pulled together a few of the more creative efforts—some snarky, some tongue-in-cheek, all earnestly hoping that when the application process ends on March 26 and the dust clears in this social media-fueled Thunderdome, they'll claim Google Fiber's bountiful business. Many towns enter. One burgh leaves.
Columbia has all the advantages of a big city coupled with the access problems of small-town America: low-performance, high-cost broadband, and next to no fiber infrastructure, says Amberly Engert, a social media manager. So she created a Facebook page, and Ian Eyberg, a software developer started the Como Fiber Group to tout the potentially massive opportunity Google Fiber posed. Engert says that while no one in Columbia is jumping in a lake or renaming the town (read on), residents have submitted video kudos to the growing art scene and the "groovy culture" on the group's Web site. The effort really coalesced on Saturday when some 15,000 signs printed with Google's logo were distributed to the sell-out crowd at the nationally televised Missouri-Kansas men's basketball game.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
The Google Fiber for Grand Rapids steering committee points out that the typical Comcast & AT&T U-verse connection is about 6mbps—a far cry from Google's gigs. So they're planning a "Flash Mob" citywide rally on March 19 that is expected to include a "human fiber" chain of joined hands (Hands Across Grand Rapids?) to create what organizers hope will be a huge show of support. As it is, Grand Rapids currently has the distinction of collecting the most fans on its Facebook fan page (over 22,000 at last count) since it started on February 10. And, hey! Here's a local "television personality" making her case.
Greenville, South Carolina
Greenville's feeling lucky. The campaign to woo Google started by a group of twelve well-connected individuals and has spread like wildfire through the local tech community. Trey Pennington, an organizer, says this is not surprising given the community's mindset "dominated by commitment to collaborate." The group quickly produced a video playing off of Google's "Feeling Lucky" search theme and is planning a unique "community expression project"—Google on Main. Set to unfold the night of March 20th, citizens armed with glowsticks will gather in downtown Greenville—on Main Street — to rave show their support for the coming of Google Fiber. Rumor has it the event will be filmed by helicopter.
The denizens of Peoria, Illinois, want Google to know that it hasn't yet taken a turn in the "geographic center of the universe." Not yet anyway. A special Web site, Google Plays in Peoria, features a video rife with slides of bucolic cityscapes and stirring music from Vangelis. Peoria announces that on March 26, Google "will have a once in a lifetime opportunity to play in Peoria." But that's not all. Photographs of the seven wonders of Peoria ensue, and once again the city pitches Google, this time for a chance to join the ranks of a larger-than-life bikini clad sculpture, a Twistee Treat, and others as the city's "eighth wonder." If all else fails, Peoria says to Google, "Do it for the children." Media coverage includes a story of ways Peoria schools could benefit from faster Internet access.
Jared Starkey, the president of LAMP Development, LLC, says the campaign started as Facebook group and spun out into a new group called "Think Big Topeka." Now over 14,000 volunteer members strong (with no dues, and therefore, no bank account), they are relying on donated advertising and promotional support to spread the word further. Most famously, Topeka's mayor issued a proclamation (on Google Docs, natch) that for the entire month of March, Topeka would be renamed Google, Kansas. Starkey would like to remind Google that the city served as the testbed for Pokemon in the U.S. back in 1998, so they are uniquely qualified to be Google's control group. And he says, theirs is the only city to make international headlines with their bid for Fiber.
Taking note of the gauntlets thrown by Topeka and Duluth, Sarasota renamed its City Island, Google Island, and produced a (rather hilarious) video juxtaposing the positives of the city nestled in the Sunshine State with the less-than-picturesque landscape of the Heartland, and the shoulder-high snow drifts and freezing temperature of Minnesota. 'Nuff said.
But wait! Patrick Garmoe, public information officer of the Google Twin Ports Initiative laughs sheepishly as he explains Googlefest, an event that is one part rally, one part carnival and all parts enthusiasm for the promise of Google Fiber. In the midst of bands, choirs and other entertainment, "We'll be shooting a movie with real actors and a Hollywood director and live-streaming the event to impress Google," Garmoe says. The new initiative comes on the heels of Deluth mayor Don Ness's own stunts. In a spoof video proclamation that in honor of Google, all first born males would be henceforth named GoogleFiber and first born females would of course be Googlette. Also, he literally sunk to a new low in the brutal battle for business. He jumped into the freezing waters of Lake Superior. Hizzoner, perhaps you'll be deterred from further lunacy by these extremely gnarly Google Image results for "frostbite."
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