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Want ultra high-speed Internet? Show your colors today

What do Topeka, Kan., and Nevada City have in common?

Not much.

What they do have in common, however, is that both towns want Internet behemoth Google to choose their community for an experimental fiber-optic cable system that will blow the doors off Internet speed limits currently available.



In a public relations coup, Topeka, the capital of Kansas, has unofficially renamed itself Google, Kan. In response, Duluth, Minn., made a YouTube video admitting they wished they’d thought of it first.




Dozens of communities ranging from Chico and Modesto to major cities like Seattle and Washington, D.C. are competing in the wide-open contest Google announced Feb. 10.

As reported by Michelle Rindels in The Union, a Nevada City/Grass Valley coalition – 95959google – is looking to win the competition.

Part of Google’s selection criteria is an overt demonstration of the level of enthusiasm and commitment the community would have in working with Google to install and test the system.

And today is the day Nevada County residents get to show their desire – and need – for Internet speeds as much as 100 times faster than their current service.

Although there are technical and governmental requirements to winning a deal with Google, visible community support is a critical component of the application package, according to John Paul and Chip Carman of Spiral Internet in Nevada City.

Paul and Carman, with the help of a few dozen volunteers, have organized a rally, march and party for today. The event is free and everyone is invited.

The organizers are hoping to attract 1,000 people to march up Broad Street with beach balls, signs, noisemakers, and musical instruments. And they want everybody to dress in the bright Google colors of red, blue, yellow and green.

The demonstration will be videotaped and edited by Suzanne Warren of Silver Avenue Pictures. The final result will be broadcast on YouTube later this month.

The festivities are slated to begin at 12:30 p.m. with a rally at Robinson Plaza, opposite the Bank of America in downtown Nevada City.

[Editor’s note: Daylight savings time went into effect today. It is now one hour later than it was this same time yesterday.]

The rally will feature informative speeches and entertainment by the Earth Rhythm drummers, juggling by Barry Friedman of the Raspyni Brothers, and music by guitarist/singer Kelly Fleming.

At 1 p.m., the Grass Valley Taiko Drummers, stationed on the balcony of the National Hotel, will signal the beginning of the march.

A contingent of bicycles will lead off the march followed by a group of Google enthusiasts with 12-foot beach balls. Rally participants will join the march up Broad Street.

Organizers will coach marchers in “spontaneous” demonstrations to make the event as colorful and creative as possible for the YouTube video.

The march will end at Miners Foundry for a party with food and music.

Mikail Graham of Nevada City will present two bands – Grease, Grit & Grime and the Power of Twelve – for listening and dancing from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The free party will also feature a community potluck. People are encouraged to bring finger foods to share. Food may be dropped off at Miners Foundry from 10 a.m. on.

Since it’s not likely that people would have gone for changing the historic names of Nevada City or Grass Valley to Google, Calif. (even if Kansas hadn’t thought of it first), Paul and Carman coined the creative term “Googlebit” to capture Google’s attention.

Google’s intent is to install a fiber-optic cable system that will run at one gigabit (Googlebit) per second. (Fiber optics use light instead of electricity to transmit information over glass or plastic fibers instead of metal wires.)

One gigabit may not sound like much until you compare it to the Internet connection speeds you have in your home or office.

If you have a dial-up connection, your speed is measured in kilobits. If you have satellite, wireless (aka WiFi), DSL, cable or other “high speed” connection, your speed is measured at best in megabits. Fiber optic services are measured in gigabits.

It’s all a matter of zeroes or you can think of it terms of ping-pong balls, basketballs and 12-foot beach balls, say Paul and Carman.

You guessed it: If you’ve got dial-up service, you’ve got a ping-pong ball.

If you’ve got a typical “broadband” connection, you’ve got something somewhere between the size of a bowling ball and a basketball.

What Google is offering a beach ball bigger than you are.

Virtually, everybody who has ever used the Internet has been frustrated by the lag time of a slow Internet connection, whether it’s an interrupted video, overlapping conversations during a video conference, or a download that takes so long you might as well go to bed and hope the download is there in the morning.

Everybody from working telecommuters to online gamers to people who want to watch 3-D high definition video need all the speed they can get.

For some, a slow connection is just an inconvenience. For others, it’s a barrier to employment as a remote teleworker.

The Nevada City/Grass Valley area is known in the high-tech industry as an “eagle’s nest” – a remote community with a high quality of life and a concentration of knowledge workers who are so good at what they do they can work wherever they want – as long as they’ve got the ‘Net speed they need.

This area is already a magnet for high-tech companies, led by the legendary and pioneering Grass Valley Group. Bringing clean and green ultra high-speed fiber optics to the community could be the key to the economic recovery of Nevada County.

Although the Google RFI (request for information) says they’re looking for communities between 50,000 and 500,000, Carman and Paul argue that 95959google’s chances are pretty good.

“We offer a rural alternative,” said Carman in an interview Wednesday.

“We would be a good model geographically. They’re obviously not looking for the easy solution,” he added, noting Google wants to experiment with trenching, micro-trenching, boring, rock sawing, and using conduits, as well aerial cabling on existing poles.

Additionally, “Google is looking for a community that will test the system for them,” explained Paul. Grass Valley/Nevada City has long entrepreneurial history of firsts, including the first telephone network between a mine, a foundry and a lumber mill, he asserted.

Google is also going to select communities based on the level of cooperation and support they can expect to receive from local government.

Toward that end, Paul and Carman have already secured unanimous “thumbs up” from both the Nevada City and Grass Valley city councils, as well as the Nevada County Board of Supervisors, in their ongoing effort to gain millions of dollars of federal stimulus money to provide broadband wireless access to the entire area.

(While not as fast as fiber, WiFi would be a boon to those stuck with hopelessly slow dial-up connections or expensive satellite service or who live off the grid.)

Carman and Paul said they anticipate whole-hearted government support for 95959google’s bid.

Regardless, of whether 95959google wins the highly competitive contest, today’s Googlebit rally gives computer lovers and users a chance to get outdoors and play.

Admit it, we could all use some fresh air, sunshine and fun.

In that spirit, Paul and Carman will be supporting propeller-head beanies, tossing beach balls, waving signs and exhorting geeks, nerds, and the Luddites who love them to tell Google: “We’re the right fit for a Googlebit!”

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer based in Nevada City. For comments on this article, e-mail kmidboe@theunion.com or call (530) 277-4251.


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