If Google's latest expansion plans for its Fiber project pan out, Chicago and Los Angeles would become the largest U.S. cities to date to see the company roll out gigabit-per-second connectivity within their borders. The company has invited both cities to consider participating in its high-speed networking initiative, Jill Szuchmacher, director of Google Fiber Expansion, said in a blog post today.
Kicked off in 2010, the Google Fiber project was designed as an experiment to "help make Internet access better and faster for everyone." The company has already developed Fiber infrastructure in Kansas City, Austin and Provo, and has efforts in the works in Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, Raleigh-Durham, Salt Lake City and San Antonio.
Should Chicago and Los Angeles be added to that list, Google Fiber would expand its reach to more than 6 million people. The company said adding high-speed connectivity would help both cities further develop their economies, especially in areas such as tech startups and the arts.
No Guarantees but a 'Big Step'
"Whether it's filmmaking or entrepreneurship or more abundant bandwidth at home, Chicago and LA are the perfect cities to show us what's possible with gigabit Internet," Szuchmacher wrote on the Google Fiber blog.
Moving forward with a checklist process that it has steadily refined over time, Google will "work closely with city leaders to collect detailed information about each metro area," she added.
The Fiber checklist is a collection of best practices recommended to Google by several organizations, including the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The checklist asks potential metro participants to help in the planning process by identifying key infrastructure owned or not owned by the city; summarizing relevant existing laws and commercial agreements; and confirming which city-owned properties might qualify as locations for Google Fiber network huts.
"From Venice Beach to Wrigley Field, we'll study the different factors that would affect construction -- like city infrastructure and topography -- and use that information to help us prepare to build a local fiber network," Szuchmacher said. "While we can't guarantee that we'll be able to bring Fiber to Chicago and LA, this is a big step for these cities and their leaders."
Faster Speeds Help Techies, Musicians, YouTube Stars
The U.S. ranks 19th globally in average download speeds, while South Korea leads the world in average network speeds, according to Akamai Technologies' most recent "State of the Internet Report."
Bringing faster Internet speeds to Chicago would help attract more technology talent to a city that already supports some 40,000 tech jobs, Szuchmacher noted. In southern California, high-speed fiber would also help "indie musicians," "YouTube stars" and "SoCal techies," she added.
Other cities being eyed for Google Fiber include Oklahoma City, Jacksonville and Tampa -- Google issued exploration invitations to these cities in late October -- as well as Irvine, Calif., Louisville and San Diego, identified as possible Fiber candidates in September.
In September, Google also announced the launch of its Google Fiber Academy in the Atlanta area. Aimed at ensuring high customer service standards across all of Google's Fiber cities, the academy will serve as a training facility for in-home installers from across the country.