Google wants Austin to keep competition going for fiberhood status

Neighborhood associations are vying to be the first to get fiber

Ever since Google announced that Austin, Texas, would become the second fiber city in the U.S. last month, residents there have been given few details on how the tech company will select the first neighborhood to get the gigabit-speed Internet and TV package.

In the absence of a lot of information, excited residents are either plotting how to become the first neighborhood to get fiber, which Google calls a fiberhood, or in some cases, already predicting failure. IDG News Service visited Austin for this video of the mood there.

Neighborhood associations within the city are forming focus groups, emailing members to gauge interest and generally encouraging members to sign up for fiber on Google's streamlined Austin Fiber site.

One of those neighborhood groups, the Downtown Austin Neighborhood Association (DANA), is most worried about its downtown location, meaning that fiber will likely be too costly to implement at first, since utilities have to be run underground to compensate for high-rise buildings.

"We're trying to be realistic because we understand there are inherent challenges to wiring downtown," said Pamela Power, the vice president of DANA.

However, Google most wants Austin to keep the passion that made it the clear fiber choice. And residents might be surprised to know that simply getting the most people signed up in each neighborhood means they will probably get fiber first.

Fiber spokesperson Jenna Wandres said that while Google has kept the details spare so far, it's likely to follow the lead of what it did in Kansas City, Missouri, and eventually, its twin city across the river, Kansas City, Kansas. Google picked the first neighborhood there solely based on which neighborhood had the highest rate of registrants on a similar site. Google calls it the "build by demand model."

"If your fiberhood is super-excited and you register a ton of people, you'll have the chance to get it first," Wandres said.

Google isn't waiting until the first fiberhood is selected to get to work. Construction crews have already started working in Austin, installing a fiber ring around the city so that connections can happen quickly, Wandres said.

Google plans on having the first fiberhood connected to its ultra-fast broadband by mid-2014.

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Kerry Davis

IDG News Service
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