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Posted on Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 12:26 p.m.

Ann Arbor still awaits word on Google high-speed fiber optic decision

By Nathan Bomey

As frustration mounts over a Comcast Internet outage that disrupted service for users in four Midwestern states Sunday night, Ann Arbor is still waiting to hear whether it could win a high-tech workaround to existing broadband options: Google fiber.

Google announced in March that it would install a high-speed fiber-optic network in one or two communities lucky enough to grab its attention.

The announcement set off a rush among municipalities eager to land the free investment, which Google has described as more than 100 times faster than normal service. In Ann Arbor, community organizers threw together a website,, and a social media effort to support the campaign and submit application.

Separately, officials in Pittsfield Township and the city of Saline coordinated their own application and social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter.

Google originally said that it would select the winning communities by the end of the year but has yet to announce any winners. Some 1,100 communities applied.

Google spokesman Jake Parrillo said Google still plans to announce a decision by the end of the year. (Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect new information from Google, which had previously indicated a decision might not be made until early January.)

"The goal is still to get it out before the end of the year," Parrillo said. "We don’t want it to slip too far, but the number of applicants and the number of quality applicants overwhelmed us. It’s great."


Google, which employs 250 workers in downtown Ann Arbor, may not announce its fiber optic network decision until early January.

Angela Cesere |

Ann Arbor's not giving up. Derek Mehraban, CEO of Ann Arbor-based Ingenex Digital Marketing and one of the key organizers of the A2Fiber campaign, said he's distributing 150 bumper stickers at his weekly Lunch Ann Arbor Marketing (LA2M) events this month.

"I’d rather be traveling at 1 gigabit per second," the bumper stickers, which are also available at other locations throughout the community, assert.

Mehraban added: "We’re just keeping up the faith. We’re keeping the fires burning."

A website called -- which created a measurement to assess which communities had the most momentum in the Google fiber competition -- ranks Ann Arbor as the community with the fourth most support. The ranking measures social media support as a percentage of the communities' populations.

A2Fiber's Facebook page has more than 19,000 "likes," and the campaign's Twitter account has more than 1,300 followers.

The group also solicited videos from residents and local leaders pitching Ann Arbor as a Google fiber community -- an effort that solicited videos from University of Michigan Medical School Dean James Woolliscroft, Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje, Lipitor co-discoverer and Esperion Therapeutics CEO Roger Newton and now Michigan Gov.-elect Rick Snyder.

Ann Arbor, of course, has an actual Google office -- a division of AdWords that employs about 250 workers downtown -- though it's not clear whether that will make a difference.

Google has not said much about how it will make its decision. However, the firm said its intention was to study the fiber optic network's effect on innovation by watching to see whether faster speeds led to creative mobile software applications, for example.

On a website dedicated to the fiber project, Google suggests that communities willing to help get its network installed rapidly would have an edge.

The application process, Google said, will help identify "local factors that will impact the efficiency and speed of our deployment, such as the level of community support, local resources, weather conditions, approved construction methods and local regulatory issues. We will also take into account broadband availability and speeds that are already offered to users within a community."

Google also indicated that, before making its decision, it would "consult with local government organizations, as well as conduct site visits and meet with local officials."

Tom Crawford, Ann Arbor's chief financial officer, said the city had not heard anything from Google. Mandy Grewal, Pittsfield Township supervisor, said the township had not heard anything either.

Google's fiber optic announcement was also seen as an effort to strike a blow in favor of competitiveness among Internet service providers. Google indicated that it would build the network and sell access to all interested ISPs at rates, allowing them to price the services competitively.

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.



Sat, Dec 11, 2010 : 10:31 a.m.

Hey Google...Ann Arbor in the perfect location to juice up the works...we'll support you with the patience and endurance while you run your precious cable. This is too exciting. (Oh Eric...doesn't look like your private life has too much to hide...really now. the simple level of tap is no big deal - unless you have something to hide)


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 5:10 p.m.

@Andy Jacobs -- Being a Google location didn't keep Stanford from getting the beta version of Google Fiber ( Ann Arbor has a history with helping develop/deploy high speed communications... and we have a large community of very talented entrepreneurs chomping at the bit to show what you can do with 1 gigabit per second. I can't wait to use it for all of my video work.

Nathan Bomey

Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 1:17 p.m.

Update: I just heard back from Google, which now says that it still plans to announce a decision by the end of the year. Google had previously told me a decision might be pushed back until early January. I've updated the story to reflect Google's new statement.


Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 8:36 p.m.

The Comcast business model for Internet did rely on more and more subscribers, but Comcast is not unaware of saturation. Comcast started to concentrate on Internet over video way back in 2003 because their video subscribers were near saturation. I think the same may be near true for Internet. Comcast has not kept their speeds at 2003 levels; they have increased them. AT&T has done the same. I don't think that one or two cities is going to cause either of the two dominants in the market to cringe at all. Google is playing us and we are biting.


Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 7:55 p.m.

Because those two entities do not want competition. The Google business model relies on faster and faster internet service. The Comcast business model is based on more and more subscribers. Google knows how to make money with their Free to the end user products. Comcast just hikes up their rates because they have a monopoly for internet speeds as fast as cable. Kind of like DTE. The everyday consumer can not get natural gas service from anybody other than DTE. Even if you purchase the actual gas elsewhere you are still REQUIRED to use their distribution system and PAY them for it.


Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 7:50 p.m.

It won't be in Ann Arbor because they have an office here and it will appear self serving. It will be in Podunk Alabama where they don't know what the Interweb is or why they would want it. We already have good - great service available so not as much of an improvement here. Sorry naganahappen.


Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 7:01 p.m.

Both AT&T and Comcast have fiber that extends almost to the customer. Comcast has fiber to the node and if I am not mistaken, AT&T has fiber to the "central office" (which I believe is now a box that sits near the customer.) Why, if fiber is answer, don't we have these entities competing heavily for GigaBit/sec speeds? I think Google's gesture of one or two communities is the answer. AT&T and Comcast serve more than two communities. I don't think they are feeling Google's threat. Man up Google! Do something worthwhile.

Atticus F.

Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 4:03 p.m.

I hope we get it. I'm still wondering if Google's offices being located in A2 actually helps our chances or hurts our chances?


Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 4:02 p.m.

Can't the folks that gave Google all the "incentives" to open offices in Ann Arbor, help out? It seems since we didn't get all the jobs our tax $$$ were promised, it seems they owe us

Steve Pierce

Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 3:12 p.m.

If you are in Ypsi, you can get a bumper sticker at the Spark Office on Michigan Ave. Cheers! - Steve


Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 3:06 p.m.

Google suggests that communities willing to help get its network installed rapidly would have an edge. In other words, Ann Arbor is screwed.


Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 3 p.m.

Google product data is already saved forever and used to advertise to us. Now our entire internet experience can be cataloged and sold to the highest bidder. Great idea, Ann Arbor.

Chad Wiebesick

Tue, Dec 7, 2010 : 2:48 p.m.

Free A2 Fiber bumper stickers can also be picked up at Ann Arbor SPARK (330 East Liberty, Ann Arbor).