Will Google play in Peoria?

Sruthi Yejju

Google announced earlier this month it wants to build a small number of experimental fiber networks with ultra high-speed broadband in trial locations across the country.

Peoria wants to be among them. The new Internet speed will be one gigabite per second, 100 times faster than what most consumers have access to currently.

Peoria is seizing the opportunity and is campaigning to be a test city for Google. Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis, along with several elected officials, city councilmen and community members, described the significance of this initiative Feb. 23.

Peoria and Peoria County are jointly submitting an application to Google. Cities have until March 26 to apply and justify their applications. Google will disclose its selections later this year.

Ardis said, “Our research indicates that there are over 1,200 employers that will benefit from this technology immediately and over 13,000 small businesses that would benefit from this in the next few years.”

Tim Couillard, a community advocate for this initiative, said, “Google in Peoria will revolutionize both personal and business aspects of the consumers.”

According to Couillard, it is going to be a transformative experience for Peoria and will bring in new ideas, new energy and new enthusiasm for the citizens.

Google announced that its services would be offered at a “competitive price” and stated that it would let other providers resell the service on their network.

When asked how this will affect local Internet Service Providers, Couillard said Google will collaborate with local ISPs and will not step on them.

“Google will be more of an access service provider,” he added.

Gary Pollard, CEO of a local ISP A5.com, said, “We are interested in cooperating with Google and don’t see it as competition. We are involved in this initiative.”

Peoria County Board member Mike Phelan pledged the support of the county for the Google campaign.

He said, “A faster network will ensure faster response times, which means better public safety. Faster connections would also benefit rural communities and bring about economic growth.”

He also added that the Google initiative would fit in perfectly with the Peoria County strategic plan.

Google will offer the service to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 consumers. There are hundreds of cities vying to be the Google broadband test beds. These include Milwaukee, Madison, Wis., Nevada City, Calif., Columbia, Mo. and Seattle, Wash.

“Peoria has world-class businesses, education and medical facilities. Additionally, Peoria would be an idol city for Google to deploy the service in a cost-effective manner to the masses,” Couillard said.

According to Pollard, Peoria has good demographics and a favorable mix of businesses, people and activities. He also said that the location of Peoria between two large metropolitans is an advantage too as it will be able to draw in a bigger consumer base in the long-term. 

Referring to the “will it play in Peoria” line, Ardis added, “Peoria already has a built-in marketing slogan for ages and Google is aware of that.”

Dr. Jeff Huberman, dean of Bradley University’s Slane College of Communications, said, “In Peoria, we have the need for speed and we will pass Google’s test with straight A’s.”

According to him Bradley is prepared for this with lot of outstanding developers and users amidst them and has a new academic program in place for creating “killer apps” for the ultra high-speed network.

Speaking for the medical community, Dr. Andy Chiou, a faculty member at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, said that faster Internet connection would have incredible benefits for healthcare.

“A tremendous amount of bandwidth is needed for medical imaging and with the Google fiber-optic network, sharing 3D medical imaging across the country will become a reality,” he said.

However, not everybody is happy with the Google announcement. Cable and phone providers, who are facing public criticism for not upgrading their networks fast enough, are against this Google project.

According to Couillard, this competition and innovation will drive other service providers too to speed up their networks benefiting all consumers. He said “Google will be like a blueprint which the cable and phone providers can replicate to provide faster service.”

Google also stated that it would “foot the bill” of the trial.

Couillard said “The service provided will be at a price comparable to what we are paying currently, but the speed will be a 100 times faster. So I am sure many people will opt for it.”

At-large City Councilman Ryan Spain said there has been an impressive outpouring of community support for this initiative. A Web site, www.googlepeoria.com, has been set up for people to log in and nominate the city of Peoria. Peorians can also contribute by joining the Facebook group created by Couillard, “Bring Google fiber to Peoria Il.”

According to Couillard, with the new speeds “we will be able to download 256 songs or upload 125 photos in under 8 seconds, upload videos which now take up to 12-18 minutes in under 30 seconds and download one hour TV show in under 4 seconds, which is almost instantaneous.”