Selectmen Hear Pitch For Google Fiber

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By: Christopher Kazarian
Published: 09/14/12

OpenCape may be bringing a fiber network to municipalities throughout the region, but it will have little impact on the average resident or entrepreneur hoping to see faster Internet service in their home or business.

But a group of young professionals is trying to change that by inviting Google to bring their fiber service to Cape Cod as a way to attract jobs to the area and halt the exodus of the young demographic from the region.

This week one of those professionals, Juli Mayers of Bourne, was before Falmouth selectmen asking them to support this effort and craft a letter asking that Google Fiber be brought over the canal and to Cape Cod. It is a request, she said, she and others will pitch to other towns throughout the Cape.

This service, she said, could help compel those between the ages of 18 and 27 to remain in the area by giving them the resources as well as the jobs necessary for them to live on Cape Cod. Over the past decade, she said, Cape Cod has lost 25 percent of this demographic because of a lack of well-paying jobs.

Currently, she said, Comcast is the only real provider of Internet service on the Cape. With an upload and download speed of 20 Mb per second, she said, the service is far better than what existed a decade ago, but it is 100 times slower than the 1 gigabit per second offered by Google Fiber.

“Earlier tonight I tried to download my notes and it took me over 15 minutes,” Ms. Mayers said. “If I was using Google Fiber it would have taken me about 15 seconds.”

By bringing Google Fiber to Cape Cod, she said, it would allow customers to have a real choice for Internet providers.

And it would keep younger people here, she said, while hopefully enticing businesses like Google and Netflix to open up facilities on the Cape. “They are all looking at expanding,” she said of these companies. “Wouldn’t it be great if one of them came to Cape Cod?”

She noted that the Cape would be an ideal location for Google Fiber as Google’s CEO vacations on Nantucket during the summer.

Chairman of the Falmouth Board of Selectmen Kevin E. Murphy asked how Google Fiber related to OpenCape and whether this would be funded by the community or by Google.

OpenCape is not coming to my house. It is not coming to my business.

                              Chairman Kevin Murphy

While OpenCape will bring faster Internet speeds to the Cape, Ms. Mayers said, it may be difficult to enhance in the future. Additionally, she said, OpenCape is primarily geared toward municipalities so that the average homeowner will see no benefit to it.

“Who are you representing?” Selectman Mary (Pat) Flynn asked.

“Mostly the young people of Falmouth,” Ms. Mayers said, explaining that she wanted to see if the board would send Google a letter asking that they bring their fiber service to Cape Cod.

If the company did, she said, the Cape would have the fastest Internet speeds on the entire East Coast and rival Kansas City, Missouri, the first market in which Google is testing its product.

Google Fiber Not Perfect

While the service may be superior to others offered here, Selectman Douglas H. Jones said, it is not without problems. In Kansas City, he noted that Google is going neighborhood by neighborhood to determine who will receive the service. When customers opt out, he said, it means an entire neighborhood is not offered Google Fiber.

Mr. Murphy noted that was not unlike cable when it was first offered in Falmouth. “When we originally got cable in Falmouth, I remember hoping it would come down our street,” he said. “Now I’m regretting that it did.”

Selectman Brent V.W. Putnam was in favor of the concept, as this service would place the Cape ahead of other regions throughout the country.

He recalled a technology conference years ago in which the Cape was referred to as a potential Silicon Valley of the sea. The only thing holding that idea back, Mr. Putnam said, was access to high speed Internet.

Ms. Flynn was confused by the presentation, wondering why it was even being presented to the board. Instead, she said, it should have been presented to Town Manager Julian M. Suso.

“I don’t know what I’d be voting for,” she said. “I don’t know what it is and what the costs are.... It sounds to me like this is a business proposal.”

Mr. Murphy disagreed, saying that this was being brought to the board to open up dialogue on the subject.

He also pointed out that he will not benefit from OpenCape, which is geared toward the government. “OpenCape is not coming to my house,” he said. “It is not coming to my business.”

The purpose of Monday’s presentation, he said, was to see if the board wanted to express an interest in Google Fiber.

And Mr. Putnam said it is not unlike the board’s letter sent to Verizon asking that company to bring its FiOS service to Falmouth, during its contract negotiations with Comcast.

Ms. Flynn wondered whether this should be before the Falmouth Cable Advisory Committee, although Assistant Town Manager Heather B. Harper noted that this request was solely related to Internet service and not cable.

The board ultimately made no decision on Ms. Mayers’s request as the agenda item did not call for a vote. Mr. Murphy said he would place the topic on a future agenda and in the meantime suggested Ms. Mayers sit down with Mr. Suso and Ms. Harper.

CLARIFICATION (SEPTEMBER 19): According to Comcast spokesperson Marc Goodman, the figures provided by Ms. Mayers are not accurate as the company offers speeds of up to 10 Gbps (Gigabits per second) for businesses and up to 305 Mbps (Megabits per second) for residential customers over its advanced fiber network throughout the Cape. 

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