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Google Broadband Plan Stirs Hunger For Speed

The company's experimental fiber network plan has elicited almost 200,000 invitations from speed-starved Internet users.

Google on Friday advised people not to undertake dangerous stunts in their bids to be included in the company's ultrafast Internet broadband experiment, even as the arrival of the March 26 deadline for submissions would seem to render future folly pointless.

The company's announcement last month that it plans to build a series of experimental high-speed fiber optic networks to deliver broadband connectivity at speeds 100 times faster than average in the U.S. has unleashed an unexpected flood of requests from individuals and communities around the country who want to be part of the project.

The project will provide Internet speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second to somewhere between 50,000 and 500,000 people once it is completed.

Google says it has received more than 600 responses from community representatives and 190,000 responses from individuals who want to see Google's network built in their communities, and promised a final tally later tonight.

Since Google's February invitation for submissions, Duluth, Minnesota Mayor Don Ness jumped into the near-freezing water of Lake Superior and Sarasota, Florida Mayor Richard Clapp spent time in a shark cage in separate efforts to encourage Google to choose their communities for the project. And there have been plenty of similar gambits in other parts of the country.

Thanking people for their excitement and enthusiasm, Google product manager James Kelly said in a blog post that the strong response to Google's proposal indicates that "people across the country are hungry for better and faster Internet access."

Google was surprised by the extent of the interest in its plan. "The responses have exceeded our expectations and we were pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm we saw around the country," said Google product manager Minnie Ingersoll in an e-mailed statement. "People around the country are hungry for better and faster Internet. We're happy to have so many options to consider."

The volume of public interest, however, won't delay Google's decision about which community or communities will be invited to participate, said Ingersoll.

Google last year asked the Federal Communications Commission to include in the National Broadband Plan rules that would require the installation of fiber optic cable in federal infrastructure projects around the country.

Earlier this month, Google CEO Eric Schmidt repeated that request. In a post on Google's public policy blog, he warned that America's broadband had fallen behind countries in Western Europe and Asia. " Long after we recover from this recession, this broadband gap will be a dead weight on American businesses and workers, unless we act now," he said.

The National Broadband Plan currently calls for at least 100 million U.S. homes to have broadband download speeds of 100 megabits per second by 2020. That's 10 times slower than what Google is proposing.

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