Desperate for High-Speed Internet

Google map.JPG

Back in February, Google announced that it was going to provide ultra-high-speed broadband -- 1 gigabyte per second downloads, or about 20 times as fast as what your typical broadband subscriber gets today -- to a couple of lucky communities in the United States. This would be accomplished by as-yet-undeveloped technology, and the pipes would be open to multiple Internet-service providers, providing competition of a kind that has become virtually nonexistent.

What happened next was kind of remarkable. By the time the deadline came on Friday, over 1,100 cities and towns applied to be one of the fortunate few. The map above shows where they are -- the smaller dots are municipalities that applied, and the larger dots are places where over 1,000 people wrote in support of their town. You've got every region of the country represented. Some of them went a little crazy, coming up with stunts like jumping into shark tanks to get Google's attention. Members of Congress even got involved -- Sen. Al Franken made a funny video on behalf of Duluth, Minnesota, spurring Sen. Tom Udall and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan to make their own response on behalf of Farmington, New Mexico, a creative riff not really marred by the two New Mexicans' charmingly awful acting.

The ongoing economic desperation has pushed the question of infrastructure improvements to the side. But we've still got as many crumbling bridges, roads, and sewers as we did when we had a brief discussion about the issue after the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis in August 2007. Our information infrastructure may not be as old in years as our pipes and pillars, but it's just as important, and just as in need of upgrade. This is just a demonstration project, but hopefully Google can do something about it.

-- Paul Waldman

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