Austin Bids for Big Gigabit Broadband

Big Gig Austin logoOn Friday afternoon, Austin submitted its response to the Google "Fiber for Communities" Request for Information. We joined over 1,100 (!!) communities around the nation, who asked Google to build an open, super-high-speed, fiber broadband network in their towns.

Google created a two-pronged process, one for municipalities to submit their response, and another for individuals and community groups to nominate their hometown. The community support aspect snowballed, and we ended up with towns doing stunts such as mayors jumping into lakes and swimming with sharks.

One of the most frequently asked questions I received was, "What stunt is Austin going to do?" The answer, as my friend Chad Williams said, is, "We're going to be Austin."

Austin didn't need to do any stunts. In fact, doing so may have been detrimental. Stunts, at best, get you enough attention for a shot at the short list. We've already got that on the basis of our reputation. Our best bet to make the short list was to play to our strength: we've got good tech and creative people, and a city that wants to do business. Tomfoolery wouldn't have helped -- and actually may have hampered our position.

So we formed a group called Big Gig Austin and moved forward to coordinate a strong -- and classy -- community response. And our community indeed responded. The Big Gig effort was a smashing success.

map of responses to Google fiber initiatiaveEvidence of our success is shown on the map, at right. This map, produced by Google, shows the national response to the fiber initiative. The small dots represent government responses. The red dots show strength of community response. See the big red dot over Central Texas? Yeah, that's us.

Google has not released response breakdowns, so we don't know how much of that Central Texas dot is Austin. Other cities in the region, such as Round Rock, made strong bids for the Google network. Even if we are just a chunk of that regional dot, I've got to believe we're a big chunk, and that's not bad.

You can see the "Community Involvement Report" submitted by Big Gig Austin here: http://DearGoogle.BigGigAustin.org

Community response only gets you so far. It's an important indicator of support and demand, but that's just a part of the story. The most important thing is a strong municipal response, which gives Google confidence they can come into a community and build out the network quickly and cheaply.

Austin submitted a strong municipal response. You can view the City of Austin response here: http://www.CityofAustin.org/biggig

Google says the next step will be to compile a short list and have meetings to collect further information. They plan to make a decision on the trial locations by the end of the year. On the basis of our strong municipal and community responses, I think we've got as good a shot as anybody at making the short list. Yes, the odds are long, but thanks to our efforts, they are a far sight better than one out of 1,100.

Councilmember Laura Morrison sent out the following email Friday evening, after the response was filed.

Dear Friends,

It's official …the City of Austin’s Google application is submitted and we have received confirmation!! The city’s application, coupled with tremendous community support, is an impressive piece of work. Regardless of future outcomes, it has been an incredible collaborative effort that we should all be proud of.

This has truly been an extensive team effort, from the creators of BigGigAustin.org & DearGoogle.BigGigAustin.org, to the thousands of Facebook fans and those who nominated Austin, to the community leaders that provided their supportive voices. And of course, a special acknowledgement to our city staff who worked tirelessly to produce an extremely polished formal application with creative avenues in which to present it to Google. Congratulations on a job well done!

You can check out the City of Austin’s application, letters of support, creative videos and other documentation at www.cityofaustin.org/biggig

Thanks to everyone for being part of this amazing effort.

Have a great weekend,

Laura