Chesterfield enters bid for Google Fiber

Chesterfield County has joined the hundreds of communities across the country seeking to be the trial location for Google Fiber, a proposed ultra-high speed broadband network, according to information from the county.

In February, Google announced its intention to build and test ultra-high speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the country, according to a Google Web site on the project. The company issued a Request for Information to help identify interested communities, the site says.

“We’ll deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections,” Google says on the Web site. “We’ll offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000, and potentially up to 500,000 people.”

The deadline for applications was March 26, the site says.

“The reason we applied, frankly, was because I wanted Chesterfield to be part of the conversation,” said Barry Condrey, the county’s chief information officer. Google’s done a good job advertising the project, he said, and some communities have attracted attention for their creative bids to be the test site.

Chesterfield County might not be the best fit for Google’s criteria, but attracting the project would “be a huge win,” he said.

Chesterfield County, with a population of more than 300,000 people, is at the higher end of the number of people Google would offer the service to, Condrey said. Also, it’s a very large, geographically disparate county, which would make the infrastructure more difficult to install.

But, he said, one of the company’s goals is to experiment with new ways to build fiber networks, and the county, with rural areas like Matoaca and urban areas like Bon Air, would offer a variety of test environments.

Businesses that are information intensive, such as those in the health care or technology industries, would benefit greatly from the network, he said. A more cost-competitive structure for broadband would be helpful, as well, and the network “would be good for attracting new businesses,” Condrey said.

Google’s Web site says the company plans to announce a test community or communities this year. Condrey said the date for that announcement changes on a day-to-day basis.

Seeing the benefits of speeds 100 times faster than most broadband connections requires people to “take a lot of the shackles off” how they think about how information is shared, he said.

“It’s difficult for us to look ahead,” he said, and people wonder, “What are we going to do with all that bandwidth? … One reason that people don’t develop applications to take advantage of ultra-high speed is because it’s not available.”

Once the speed is available, he said, the applications will appear.

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