Baltimore Broadband:
An Update from Baltimore’s Google Czar

February 10, 2011

in Baltimore,Broadband,Google Fiber

Not the Google Czar

One of these days, Google will announce where it plans to deploy Google Fiber. Presumably one or two or three communities will be selected for a major deployment. And some 1,100+ won’t.

Before Google’s big announcement, you should know that, win or lose, Baltimore’s broadband future is brighter than most.

In September, Maryland won $115M in Recovery Act funds to build the One Maryland Broadband Network, which will connect each Maryland county, and Baltimore City, to one another and the Internet via a 10 Gbps fiber network. Did you catch that? 10 Gbps. That’s TEN times FASTER than the already “supersonic” 1 Gbps fiber footprint Google plans to deploy that we’ve all be salivating for!

The One Maryland pipe is not a “maybe” thing. It really is coming to Baltimore. The entire network will be complete before the end of 2013.

But there IS a difference: Google plans to deploy 1 Gbps fiber to tens of thousands of private door fronts. One Maryland Broadband, on the other hand, will connect “only” 1,006 community institutions across the state, 40-some in Baltimore City. Sadly, it won’t be coming to your house or apartment anytime soon.

So we’d REALLY love to have both One Maryland AND Google Fiber to get lickety-split service to your home and office. But if Google doesn’t select Baltimore for its first deployment, I’ll settle for a 10 Gbps consolation prize any day.

We [Rico Singleton, Baltimore’s new CIO; and the Baltimore Broadband Task Force, which I co-chair with Greater Baltimore Committee President & CEO, Don Fry] are studying how best to leverage this big data pipe and Baltimore’s other broadband assets for the greatest good. Can we connect to more institutions? Can we deploy deeper into the community? Can we think about door fronts and roof tops?

No answers yet, because we’re in the middle of it, but we’re seeing potential opportunities. In the meantime, let me share some thoughts about Google Fiber.

But first, I have to jump in:

I love Rico Singleton, Baltimore’s new CIO! Not only does he “get it” regarding broadband and what we all want to see for our city, he’s pushing it. In fact, he’s responsible for it. We are very fortunate to have him engaged from the inside. I thank Christopher Thomaskutty, Deputy Mayor and another favorite, for hiring Rico and making it a priority for the City to figure out a broadband strategy for its agencies and citizens. Christopher and Rico are great partners in this effort.

Will Baltimore win Google Fiber?

“PROBABLY NOT”: 1,100+ communities submitted proposals. Google has suggested it will make only a few awards. So the basic odds of winning are very low.

“MAYBE”: The fact that Baltimore City owns and controls its own conduit system is a very strong differentiator. Most every other city is dependent on its local cable and telecom providers who own and operate their conduit, and who may or may not wish to cooperate with Google.

“UH OH”: Some people suspect Google wants to “spread the wealth”, making its fiber investment only in locations that have not received American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus funds. If so, that knocks out Baltimore.

“ON THE OTHER HAND”: We made the case that because of our other broadband assets, Google will get a bigger bang for its buck by investing here.

“HARD TO SAY”: Google will self-fund the buildout of its fiber footprint in the winning locale(s), but it won’t give away the actual broadband service. Google will charge a competitive monthly fee, and wants to know that wherever it builds the system, a high percentage of residents will sign up. Hmm.

We don’t know what Google is thinking. Conduit is king? Spread the wealth to non-ARRA recipients? Get the biggest bang for the buck? So it’s impossible to predict the outcome of this competition.

We made our best pitch. After the pitch, we raised Baltimore’s stature in Google’s eyes via our Fiber Symposium, press conferences and other activities. That’s all we can do. Well, you can keep your fingers crossed!

In the meantime, we continue taking responsibility for our own fiber future. When Google makes its announcement later this year, not many in the group of unselected cities will be as fortunate as Baltimore, with all of our existing fiber assets AND a 10Gbps pipe coming to town!

Baltimore Broadband: A Quick and Partial History

Feel free to scan earlier posts related to Google Fiber and Baltimore broadband activities over the last year: Google CzarPlan BFiber SymposiumUnsung Heroes

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