Google Fiber means 2 things to Ann Arbor: Choice, opportunity

When Steve Pierce thinks about what Google's Fiber community would mean for Ann Arbor or Saline/Pittsfield Township he weighs the long-term impact. The co-founder of Wireless Ypsi and expert of just about all things Internet sees the Google pilot program providing two things most people aren't talking about: Opportunity and choice.

Choice, as in competition between Internet service providers, who will be forced to provide better service at an even better price. Opportunity, as in the economic opportunities this will provide for Washtenaw County.

"That connection provides opportunity for entrepreneurs whether it’s a start-up or a big company," says Pierce, who lives in downtown Ypsilanti and runs his business from his laptop. "Bandwidth is king. No matter how fast your connection is you could always use more."

Google plans to build and test ultra-high speed broadband networks in a small number of communities across the country. These lines will stream data at 1 gigabit per second, about 100 times faster than most Americans get through their current cable and DSL providers.

Ann Arbor got on the bandwagon quickly, launching A2Fiber, a Facebook fan page, a YouTube contest and other online efforts to rally support for its application. The University of Michigan and Ypsilanti are backing Ann Arbor's effort. Saline and Pittsfield Township are filing a competing joint application. As for the local media's talk of competition
between the two applications, Pierce thinks its irrelevant.

"It doesn't matter who the heck wins," Pierce says. "We just need to get this to the county. We need to get past the first round so the Google people will come here and check us out."

Pierce believes that Google is looking for a community of about 250,000 people, meaning it wouldn't just be Ann Arbor or Saline/Pittsfield Township alone. It would probably be Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, such as the city, the adjacent townships and probably some nearby towns.

That would actually play to Washtenaw County's favor because the general Ann Arbor area features both urban, suburban and rural settings for Google to test. Local municipalities also have an educated population and business community with an almost unquenchable demand for Internet. But even if Google just choose to set up the project in downtown Ann Arbor, the economic ripple affects would be felt for miles away.

"It's still going to help Ypsilanti because it's going to attract more people to the community," Pierce says. "Where are they going to live? Some are going to live in Ypsilanti. Some are going to shop and eat in Ypsilanti. It's going to be huge for the community if we can land these guys here."

Source: Steve Pierce, co-founder of Wireless Ypsi.
Writer: Jon Zemke
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