Rochester vies for Google

By Annie Stodola


The cities of Rochester and Rochester Hills are hopeful that their communities will be selected for Google Inc.’s latest project, called Fiber for Communities, which proposes to implement experimental, ultra high-speed broadband networking nationwide.

 Rochester and Rochester Hills teamed up to fill out a request for information application last week in order to be eligible to receive Google fiber-optic technology.

 If chosen, the community would have access to Google fiber-optic high-speed Internet, including all residential and business areas.

 Google fiber will ultimately deliver Internet speeds over one  gigabit per second to communities, more than 100 times faster than most broadband connections currently, according to a press release last week.

 Ultra high-speed Internet access is currently available, but residents must opt to pay for the faster service whereas with the Google Fiber for Communities project, the corporation will be selecting “test” communities to receive the connection at a similar cost to current fees, according to Bob Grace, the director of management information systems for the city of Rochester Hills.

 “(The price) would be within the range of what is currently being charged,” Grace said.

The installation of Google Fiber will be free of cost to the communities selected for the project and will be fully funded by Google Inc., according to Rochester City Manager Jaymes Vettraino.

 With both Oakland University as well as Rochester College, many are hopeful that the paired communities will be selected for Google Fiber.

 “(It’s) a great location because you have an educated community that embraces technology,” Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett said, but “there’s huge competition nationwide, I don’t think any of us are sure how many test sites Google will authorize,” he said.

Vettraino also thinks it is a probable choice for Fiber.

 “We have a great college and medical institution in the community along with the technology companies that have come into the area … the traditional neighborhood and traditional downtown (area), Google could have a full range of buildings and businesses to test their new technology,” Vettraino said.

 “Advanced infrastructure in the community is a benefit for the city itself and most of the residents,” he said.

 While many are supportive of the community’s application for Google Fiber, those opposed would include competitor networks said Grace. Some of the possible competitors include Wide Open West, Comcast or AT&T services. Grace said it’s about the product, not 

“We’re doing whatever we can as Rochester and Rochester Hills to promote growth and to move this project forward. If WOW! came forward with it, or AT&T, we’d be doing the same thing with them,” he said. 

 If implemented in a community such as Rochester and Rochester Hills, other vendors like WOW!, Comcast or AT&T could pay to use the Google Fiber network.

“It will be interesting to see where it ends up and where it leads to … to see if Google pushes others into this realm.” 

Grace also said the higher speed technology would be beneficial to the several research development companies in the Rochester and Rochester Hills area.

 “To be able to transmit information at rates 100 times faster than what is currently available would open up all kinds of opportunities, especially for small technology based companies that do most of their work via the Internet,” Jerry Marsh, an Oakland University Computer Science and Engineering professor said. 

Marsh said the introduction of Google fiber would pull new web-based, start-up companies to the area that places Oakland University in a position with future business opportunity, Marsh said.

 One qualification that Google Inc. is considering when reviewing applicants for Google Fiber for Communities is the accessibility or ease of installation of the fiber, according to Grace.

 Most communities currently have fiber from other networks and companies, but Grace said getting service to homes is a challenge. The window of criteria regarding population is anything but narrow, as Google fiber may serve areas of 50,000-500,000 residents.

 Several other Michigan communities such as the city of Birmingham, Troy, Ann Arbor, Royal Oak and Detroit have also applied to become a test site for Google Fiber but it has yet to be said when Google Inc. will make its selections.

 For further information regarding Google Fiber for Communities, visit