Will Google wire Alexandria?


After courting Verizons much touted Fios service to no avail, Alexandria hopes to become a test site for a new high-speed internet service being developed by Google. 

The search giants new technology is forecast to deliver service at speeds more than 100 times faster than most internet connections now in use.

If selected as a test city, Alexandria will join a nationwide group on municipalities taking part in Googles Fiber for Communities Project designed to make internet access better and faster. 

The company plans to build and test ultra-high speed broadband networks in one or more trial locations across the country, Alexandria City Manager Jim Hartmann told City Council in a memo dated March 4. The company plans to offer the service at a competitive price in selected locations to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.

Google is asking local governments and residents to express their interest by providing information about their respective communities via an electronic request for information form, according to Hartmann. As part of the application we would seek community input on how such a high-speed fiber-optic network could be an advantage to the city, he stated.

However, We really dont know what Google actually wants to do, said Alexandria E-Gov Manager Craig Fifer. And they have made no announcement about the projects timeline.

Google intends to charge consumers a competitive price for the service, according to Google.

Well test new ways to build fiber networks; to help inform, and support deployments elsewhere, well share key lessons learned with the world, Google states on the projects website. Well operate an open access network, giving users the choice of multiple service providers.

The latter statement could be a sticking point with many Alexandrians, some of whom have had issues with Comcasts dominance over the areas fastest internet. 

As noted by Councilman Rob Krupicka in his newsletter, Last spring, the Council approved a franchise with Verizon that would allow it to start installing Fios infrastructure around the city. Unfortunately, corporate decisions by Verizon have stopped their roll-out of Fios around the country, including Alexandria.

Verizon ran into a blizzard of complaints from local residents last year during their installation of Fios in nearby Mount Vernon. Those complaints centered on the lack of timely notification of installation activities and non-adherence to dedicated rights-of-way in residential areas resulting in multiple property damage claims. 

Also, the increase in Fios customers proved less than anticipated, according to local leaders in that area.

Fios is an underground installation. Whether the Google project would be underground or aboveground has not been specified at this point, according to Fifer. But, whatever type of installation is anticipated it would have to comply with Alexandrias construction requirements, he said.

Both Montgomery and Prince Georges counties in Maryland are also considering participation in the Google project, according to the Washington Business Journal. 

The City Council decided to add the citys name to the applicant list at Tuesdays legislative meeting after it became clear that Verizon has no desire to provide Fios to the city any time in the forseeable future.

The final decision by Google is expected in 2010. The deadline for response from interested communities is March 26.