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Posted on Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 2:36 p.m.

Pittsfield Township, city of Saline join forces for Google fiber application opposite Ann Arbor

By Nathan Bomey

The city of Saline and Pittsfield Township plan to file a joint application to win Google's fiber optic network project -- a move that places the regional municipalities in competition with the city of Ann Arbor.

Pittsfield Supervisor Mandy Grewal, Saline Mayor Gretchen Driskell and Saline Area Schools Superintendent Scot Graden issued a joint announcement this afternoon stating that they would file a joint application to win the fiber optic investment.

"Pittsfield + Saline = Googleville!" the press release says.

Google said last month that it would select a "small number of trial locations" throughout the country to create an ultra-high-speed Internet network with speeds 100 times faster than commercially available service.

Thumbnail image for Mandy_Grewal.jpg

Pittsfield Township Supervisor Mandy Grewal

The city of Ann Arbor, with support from the city of Ypsilanti and an endorsement from the University of Michigan, is applying for the project on its own. Local officials have collaborated to set up a Web site, Twitter account, Facebook fan page and YouTube account where residents can support the project.

But Pittsfield has set up its own Web site, Twitter account, Facebook page and YouTube account.

Grewal said Pittsfield discussed filing a joint application with the city of Ann Arbor, but city officials opted against involving multiple municipalities in their application. She declined to criticize the city's decision to go it alone.

"I don't think we're in competition with one another," she said. 

Instead of filing an application with the city of Ann Arbor, Grewal said Pittsfield and Saline decided they had nothing to lose.

"We were left at the table and decided why not do it together," she said.


Saline Mayor Gretchen Driskell

Google is seeking applications from communities with 50,000 to 500,000 users. The city of Ann Arbor has 43,629 households and 108,812 residents, according to data from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. The city of Ypsilanti has 7,255 households and 19,201 residents.

Pittsfield has 13,596 households and 36,925 residents, and the city of Saline has 3,462 households and 8,310 residents.

Crawford said he wasn't disappointed that Pittsfield and Saline chose to file their own application instead of endorsing Ann Arbor's efforts.

"I don’t see it as negative or positive," said Tom Crawford, chief financial officer for the city of Ann Arbor. "Ypsilanti voted to support Ann Arbor. My understanding is they believe that something good in this region is good for all of us. I think Pittsfield and Saline believe the same thing. It’s just a different way of saying the same thing."

Driskell could not be reached for comment.

Graden said Saline students would benefit from the Google fiber project because high-speed Internet access is increasingly required to complete assignments.

"We’re adopting and utilizing technology in all ways in school," Graden said. "The one issue of access is somewhat of a barrier or a hurdle for us. We have students who may not have access at home. It’s critical to have for our students.

Google plans to design the network itself in cooperation with local officials in the regions it selects for the project. 

Crawford said the city of Ann Arbor decided to file its own application without seeking official involvement from other municipalities because of time constraints. The Google application is due March 26.

"Given the short time frame that we have to fill this out, it would have been a whole lot harder with multiple jurisdictions," he said.

Grewal said the region is a good fit for the fiber optic investment because America needs to invest heavily in providing improved high-speed Internet options for users outside major cities.

"What we're trying to do is really put this within the framework of middle America," Grewal said. "We need to take a look at it from beyond the urban context."

Contact’s Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or or follow him on Twitter. You can also subscribe to Business Review's weekly e-newsletter or the upcoming breaking business news e-newsletter.



Sun, Mar 21, 2010 : 3:45 p.m.

Gretchen and Mandy deserve the Ralph Nader award for throwing the 2000 presidential election. Their combined communities don't have the required 50K people, and lack the above-ground and underground easements necessary to build out a fiber plant. Their vain efforts will only serve to give Ann Arbor's bid a black eye. What a waste.


Fri, Mar 19, 2010 : 8:35 a.m.

The 2 communities (Ann Arbor and surrounding area) need each other. Ann Arbor is 'full' and really can't expand any further without annexing. It's the university that drives everything for both A2 and the surrounding area, without it, we are all in trouble. Pittsfield Twp and surrounding towns provide the overflow for people who want to live in the area plus space for many businesses that want that coveted Ann Arbor mailing address but need space and lower taxes. To refer to Pittsfield Twp and the surrounding towns as suburbs is insulting. Saline, Dexter, Ypsilanti, and Chelsea have all been around a long time, they are nobody's suburb. While Pittsfield Twp does have some areas that are suburban in nature, it also has considerable farmland and parts of it blend right in with Ann Arbor, you wouldn't know the difference if there wasn't a sign telling you so. I really don't see this new fiber as being useful for most residents -- where it will really make a difference is for businesses that push lots of data. As for the U Hospital, they already have access to data pipes larger than being proposed here.

John of Saline

Thu, Mar 18, 2010 : 12:01 p.m.

This is so typical of the prevailing attitude of suburbanites, those who put their own selfish interests ahead of the community at large. Did you note the part about Ann Arbor not letting Saline/Pittsfield participate in the bid? There could have been a Washtenaw area bid, but Ann Arbor said no.


Thu, Mar 18, 2010 : 9:04 a.m.

This is so typical of the prevailing attitude of suburbanites, those who put their own selfish interests ahead of the community at large. This is the same type of thinking that seeks to avoid paying taxes or shouldering other responsibilities of living in a community, all while depending on it for employment and recreation.

Nathan Bomey

Thu, Mar 18, 2010 : 8:27 a.m.

Steve Hendel, Google has said that it plans to foot the bill for construction of the fiber network itself, including governmental fees associated with the project. But Google has said it will sell space on the network to data plan providers, which will, in turn, charge fees to residential and business users. It's too early to tell what the pricing plans will look like, but most experts agree the cost to users is likely to be lower, because Google plans to allow competition among Internet service providers. Hope this helps clear it up!


Thu, Mar 18, 2010 : 7:25 a.m.

"Saline and Pittsfield do not need Ann Arbor". Both of these locations are simply suburban sprawl feeding off U of M and A2 City. If U of M went away, A2 City would shrink and Saline and Pittsfield would dry up into sprawly ghost towns. Don't bite the hand that feeds you. Also, Google is looking to push the limits on the fiber, not just provide service to some sprawl communities. The U of M hospital is the key player here, as they will be able to accomodate Google's desire to run unique and large apps over the fiber.

Steve Hendel

Thu, Mar 18, 2010 : 6:21 a.m.

There has been NO mention or discussion of the cost, if any, of this project to the local government or it's citizens. The reporting this far seems to assume that Google will pick up all the costs for the 'winning' city. It may be a great project, but can we at least have some reporting and discussion of the attendant cost (if any) to the taxpayers BEFORE a bill is presented?

John of Saline

Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 10:45 p.m.

Verizon has the fiber-to-home system called FiOS, but no plans to deploy it to their Midwestern customers. So they'd have to explain why they don't want to do that in their objections to Google's plan.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 8:28 p.m.

Pittsfield has grown rapidly over the years in part because its taxes are lower than Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. That's where Zingerman's for example has located many of its growing offshoots.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 6:50 p.m.

Saline and Pittsfield do not need Ann Arbor. If you add Ann Arbor to this they will have some crazy demands for affordable housing, can't do it because the historical society doesn't like it, gee there's a lizard in the way, etc. Plus this will just be another plus for the burbs to use to draw business if Ann Arbor passes an income tax.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 3:16 p.m.

Thanks for the info Steve. Wow. I was thinking maybe the "city" of Ypsilanti was #2, but Pittsfield has almost 5 times greater property value than Ypsi. It isn't even close. Heck, even my small city (Saline) beats out Ypsi. I guess Pittsfield is player after all. Rather than going solo, Ann Arbor should consider partnering with everyone to make it one massive application. Or does AA think it is too good for the rest of us?

Peter A Webb

Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 3:14 p.m.

If everyone around Ann Arbor is really excited about high-speed internet, I think we ought to find a way to move forward with it even if Google doesn't select us.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 2:51 p.m.

This will be an uphill battle for Pitts/Sal since Google has A2 connections, but since Ann Arbor is thinking of a city income tax, why should Google put that burden on its employees. Not to mention astronomical parking fees.

Steve the Wookiee

Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 2:49 p.m.

@SalineDoe - Pittsfield Twp., then Ypsi Twp. page 6, 2009 Apportionment Report


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 2:30 p.m.

Nathan: Who has the highest overall taxable value of property in the county after the City of Ann Arbor? Is it Ypsilanti? I would bet that taxable value equates to the number of businesses/households, potential users of Internet service.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 2:26 p.m.

If competition makes all parties step up their game, then I say more power to them. And if Google sees this, the should appreciate that the entire region around Ann Arbor is highly motivated and consider giving the project to them all and not just single out one city. Pittsfield has to be a pretty big player in the local economy, so this makes sense. Ultra high speed internet would be HUGE in attracting businesses and jobs to the region.


Wed, Mar 17, 2010 : 2:18 p.m.

Seeing as how most businesses with Ann Arbor mailing addresses are actually in Pittsfield, makes sense.