Recently, Google announced a competition for cities across the country. The prize is the chance to test out Google's new ultra high-speed fiber-optic broadband networks. Duluth is one of 90 cities in the competition and is a main front-runner. These Internet speeds would be 100 to 1,000 times faster than what Duluth-Superior currently experiences.
Curt Walczak from UMD's Center for Economic Development is a member of the Google Initiative Committee.
Hundreds of UMD students signed up to support Duluth's bid to bring the Google Initiative to the Twin Ports.
Students Timothy Gearns and Carrie Larsen are fans of the faster Internet connection UMD would have with the Google initiative. Gearns said working on school assignments at home as well as downloading music and videos would be vastly improved. "I live in a dead zone," he said. "It would be great to have high speed internet throughout the city."
Students are helping keep Google Fiber in the public's attention with YouTube videos and Facebook posts. "I'm definitely for bringing the Google project to Duluth," said Nathan Koep (right). Brett Schultz (left) agreed, "I live on campus, so it will be nice. It'll make UMD even more of a competitive school.
About Fiber Optics
What is a fiber-optic network, and what makes it so great? Currently, Internet access can be received through a copper telephone line (DSL service) or a coaxial cable (cable internet). With Google's new fiber-optic network, Internet is received through a flexible fiber that has the ability to expand and create even faster internet speeds. It's the technology of the future.
Google's plan would enhance the economic landscape of the winning city. Curt Walczak, technology consultant at UMD's Center for Economic Development, said that it would also help Google. "It would be an experiment for Google to see what happens to the community and also would be a test on how to employ fiber-optic, high-speed Internet," said Walczak
Walczak believes that the Google Twin Ports Initiative will benefit Duluth. "It will provide opportunities for Duluth to expand." Walczak, a member of the Google Initiative Committee, has kept Duluth in the publicity spotlight without spending any money on advertising. Duluth is considered one of the main front-runners in this project for many reasons including city population, economic development, cold weather climate, and land acreage. Another positive aspect of Duluth is it's geographic location. Hardly any natural disasters occur here: no hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes or floods.
Google Initiative Committee has given Duluth a lot of publicity, featuring the city as creative and entrepreneurial. Mayor Don Ness was featured in the New York Times for his Polar Bear Plunge experience and numerous videos have been made by community members, Mayor Ness, various news organizations, and even Senator Al Franken. In response to Topeka, Kansas changing their name to Google, Kansas, Mayor Ness created a satirical video poking fun at Duluth and Topeka, stating that every first-born child would be named Google Fiber or Googlette Fiber. The videos also feature community members and other Minnesotans showing their support. Ness also appeared on CNN to promote Duluth's effort on Friday, March 26.
On March 20 at the DECC, a GoogleFest rally was held to show Google the community support in a movie. A mascot named Speedie Gigabite was also created and various community members created songs to show support of getting Google's fiber-optic network in Duluth. Speedie even has his own Facebook page.
The Statesman also participated in the publicity by changing their name to the Googleman for a week.
This free publicity has given Duluth 12,000 media mentions on Google, more than any of 90 other cities nationwide. Also, Duluth has one of the highest percentages of people, based on population, who are fans of the Duluth effort on Facebook.
For most, the best part of Google's fiber-optic network is a faster connection and faster loading time for things like videos or pictures. For UMD, ultra high-speed bandwidth will start a whole new way to learn and go to the university. Online classes could expand; students would have a faster and constant connection to important Web sites--even those off campus. Work could get done faster, and multimedia could be integrated into classrooms more easily.
UMD is also home to a number of centers, institutes, and research labs, including the Center for Economic Development, the Natural Resources Research Institute, the Large Lakes Observatory, and Minnesota Sea Grant. There are also many technology-oriented academic programs, most of which are in the Swenson College of Science and Engineering and The Labovitz School of Business and Economics.
UMD Alumni at Google
UMD is proud to have four alumni working at Google. Dr. Amit Singhal, a 1991 UMD Master of Computer Science graduate, is a Google Fellow, the designation Google reserves for its elite engineers. He was inducted into the UMD Academy of Science and Engineering in 2009. Jeffrey Sharkey, a 2006 Bachelor of Science graduate and a Google employee, won a $275,000 Android Competition prize in 2008. Kai Xu, a 2003 Master of Science in Applied and Computational Mathematics graduate and a 2006 Master of Science in Computer Science graduate, is also employed at Google. Nathan Ingersoll, another employee of Google, earned a Bachelor of Science in both Computer Science and Mathematics in 2002.
Speedie Gigabite, Duluth-Superior's mascot for the Google Initiative. (Photo courtesy of Google Twin Ports)
UMD and Google Apps
UMD, as part of the University of Minnesota system, is engaged in a project to convert to Google Apps during the coming year. This will include moving students, faculty, and staff from local email systems to Google mail and replacing University-wide calendar service with Google calendar. UMD has a strong tie to Google as a result of this initiative.
Building the Economy
Many Duluth residents worry about a rise in price for Internet access. However, Google plans to offer the service at about the price that people currently pay, maybe even cheaper. There may be a small connection charge initially but the monthly price would be about the same. It is also not required to receive fiber-optic network.
Other than benefiting Duluth residents and UMD, this fiber-optic connection will serve as an economic engine for Duluth, bringing many new businesses while giving current Duluth-based businesses a leg-up. Google's network has the potential to transform Duluth into a Midwestern technology-innovation hub.
In order for Duluth and Superior to win Google's fiber-optic network, the community still needs to be involved. The application has already been submitted, however, "we still need community support to nominate Duluth-Superior," said Walczak.
Want to help?
Vote for Duluth each day until early May, 2010 to show support for Google Fiber.
Written by Mandee Kuglin and Donna O'Neill
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