Seattle pushes to join Google's fiber broadband plan

City cites strong infrastructure just two days after Google announcement

The city of Seattle has nominated itself to be one of the first locations for Google's planned new high-speed broadband networks.

Google's new plan to build what it calls "ultra high-speed" broadband networks in some parts of the U.S. has already attracted interest from the city of Seattle.

The interest comes as some in the traditional carrier and cable community have labeled Google's move a publicity stunt aimed at pushing its side in the national net neutrality debate.

Seattle issued a press release late Thursday night declaring that Google could use its existing 500 mile fiber infrastructure that connects schools and government buildings, and the city's 100,000 owned and co-owned utility poles to construct a Google-based network.

Google's announcement on Wednesday included a call for local governments and residents to nominate their communities for the project.

Seattle's response shows there is some meat to Google's plan for 1 gbit/sec fiber connections, even though it was derided by traditional carriers and cable operators who oppose formal net neutrality regulations. "This is mainly a p.r. stunt," Scott Cleland , chairman of told the New York Times shortly after Google's announcement.

Cleland's sentiment mirrored other industry leaders who spoke to Computerworld but refused to be identified. Cleland's group includes telecom and cable associations along with companies that oppose any new regulation designed to protect net neutrality that would be imposed by the Federal Communications Commission and, potentially Congress. The opponents contend that additional regulation would stifle innovation.

One of those industry officials said in an interview that until Google discusses what it is willing to spend on construction of an experimental fiber-optic network, the plan shouldn't be taken seriously.

Google's Washington counsel, Richard Whitt, admitted to the New York Times that the company is not entering the broadband business, and instead called the company's fiber network announcement "a business model nudge and an innovation nudge" for the rest of the industry.

Whitt also acknowledged to the Times that Google benefits whenever more people use the Internet.

Google's move is the latest in the war of words between the Internet company and the traditional carrier community over the future of net neutrality rules.

Google is scared it might lose in a net neutrality fight, said Phillip Redman, an analyst at Gartner Inc. Meanwhile, carriers and cable operators, "ought to be at least a little worried about the impact of Google's announcement," said Mike Jude, an analyst at Stratecast, a division of Frost and Sullivan.

"Google has a lot of visibility and ... the ability to throw its weight around," added Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates. "I assume the cable companies don't really believe that Google will put them out of business. But if Google starts putting out gigabyte speeds, many will ask why the cable companies can't do it as well. I think that is the power that Google wields in the market -- they demonstrate something is possible and then incumbent providers need to catch up or face the wrath of their customers."

The FCC is expected to present a national broadband plan to Congress next month. That plan could provide fodder for many years of debate given the wide difference of views on net neutrality and the broadness of the issues involved, analysts believe. The FCC issued proposed rules in October that included draft language that would codify six principles for "preserving a free and open Internet however it is accessed."

The six principles included four from a 2005 FCC Internet Policy Statement plus two new ones that require Internet service providers to "treat lawful content, applications and services in a nondiscriminatory manner" and to disclose their network management practices to third parties, including Google and others.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld . Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen , send e-mail to or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed .

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This story, "Seattle pushes to join Google's fiber broadband plan" was originally published by Computerworld.

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