What if Baltimore was a national leader in developing new technologies for the future of the Internet?
It’s a real possibility and many of us here in Baltimore are working hard to make it a reality. On February 10, Google announced plans to build out a new, extremely fast fiberoptic Internet service in one or more test markets, serving anywhere from 50,000 to 500,000 residents and small businesses.
And that’s just the beginning. In the long term, Google has reason to get into this business. As one of the primary producers of Internet content (especially its search and YouTube units), Google needs to ensure it can reach its customers. Right now it can do so through providers like Comcast and Verizon, pretty much for free. But to insure that stays the case, Google needs to become a competitive provider itself. The competitive and regulatory effects that Google would have as a new entrant in the market can help ensure Google’s long term access to its customers.
This new infrastructure would be open to entrepreneurs, too—companies that wanted to provide competitive network, video, or music services would be able to do so using the Google fiber infrastructure. Google’s proposing an “Open Access” network that would usher in a new era of Internet competition. Just because Google is providing the fiber backbone wouldn’t mean you would have to choose Google as your ISP. And they are alright with that model. The strategy should afford them more flexible regulatory terms.
What would it mean for Baltimore? For one, Baltimore would be “put on the map” instantly as a destination for Internet entrepreneurship. It would offer a huge boost of civic pride to be selected (among many cities) for this trial. We’d keep more of our best and brightest here in Baltimore, instead of shipping them off to Silicon Valley or New York.
Most importantly, we would innovate. Institutions like Johns Hopkins, University of Maryland, the Space Telescope Science Institute, and the Walters Art Museum could all share their amazing projects with our city and the world in ways that are new and meaningful. Imagine sharing highly detailed 3D medical imagery in seconds. Our burgeoning music scene could connect and collaborate locally and around the world. We would certainly see innovations come in cyber-security and Government 2.0 that we can’t even imagine yet. With one of the highest concentrations of skilled information technology workers in the world, Baltimore is a tinder-box of innovation waiting for a spark like this.
It is also in Google’s best interest to have a powerful social impact on our community. By making ultra-high-speed broadband service available at competitive prices, Google could demonstrate the effects of access to technology in disadvantaged communities, and how innovation can occur when people are given tools to succeed. Baltimore City Public Schools chief Dr. Andres Alonso sees the potential of the proposed Google project on our schools and was the first advocate from the public sector. The Google fiberoptic connections would be up to 700 times faster than the links that currently serve city schools.
Other cities are competing for Google’s attention in this process; many have solid assets to offer, some are pulling stunts. We believe Baltimore has an extremely strong strategic case: we offer some of everything Google might want to understand in a trial like this, as well as a strong opportunity to set a favorable regulatory precedent.
Baltimore City’s response is due to Google on March 26th. If you want to see what could be a multi-billion dollar investment come to Baltimore, express your support now. Go to http://bmorefiber.com and check out what we’re doing on Facebook (http://facebook.com/bmorefiber) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/bmorefiber). Mobile phone users can text ‘bmore’ to 63218 to show support and be kept up to date with news. We’ve got a shot at this. Let’s make it real.