Rural Maine towns, LA, vie for Google Fiber

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LEWISTON — The Twin Cities and a group of Oxford County towns will join hundreds of others nationwide trying to lure search engine giant Google to build an experimental high-speed computer network in their area.

“We have some high-speed Internet now, mostly in the urban areas,” said Paul Badeau, of the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council. “But Google is talking about taking it to the next level. They are talking about bringing super-high-speed Internet to communities that don’t have general access to it now.”

The application is being managed by the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments and includes the LAEGC and the communities that make up the Western Maine Economic Development Council: Paris, West Paris, Norway, Oxford, Buckfield, Hebron, Hartford, Otisfield, Sumner and Waterford. Badeau said the communities have until Friday to file their applications.

In February, Google announced its plan to build a high-speed, one-gigabit-per-second, fiber-optic network in a small community with between 50,000 and 500,000 people.

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It has inspired hundreds of communities to apply, with some staging elaborate stunts. The mayor of Topeka, Kan., announced earlier this month that the city would change its name to “Google” if it won the competition. The mayor of Duluth, Minn., swam in freezing Lake Superior last week to get the company’s attention. The mayor of Sarasota, Fla., jumped into a tank full of sharks.

Badeau said local officials are not planning any stunts, but they will be around Lewiston-Auburn on Wednesday with video cameras, asking local residents to help make the pitch to Google.

“We want to send them a videotape of different people in the community saying, ‘We want Google,'” Badeau said. “We’ll be talking to senior citizens, preschoolers, Maineiacs, community groups and people working in kitchens. We’ll even get some cats and dogs, too.”

The high-speed Internet connection would be a huge benefit for rural Maine.

“A lot of businesses have access to some high-speed Internet now, but this would bring it right to the home,” Badeau said. The company would treat the installation as an experiment, through which they would test new Internet applications and installation techniques.

“But there would also be the panache of being chosen by Google,” Badeau said. “There are so many communities trying for this, it would make us stand out to be chosen for Google’s test.”

The growth council is also trying to get Twin Cities Facebook users to join the “Google Fiber for LA and Western, Maine” fan page.

“We just want people to show support,” Badeau said. “If we have hundreds of fans, it’s another way of showing Google how serious we are about this.”

staylor@sunjournal.com

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