Cities vie for warp-speed Web service

City officials in Henderson want to partner with Google on an experimental new network that could provide lightning- fast Internet access to homes and businesses.

The question is, do they want it badly enough?

Hundreds of communities across the country also have applied to be a part of the Internet giant's pilot program. Several of those cities staged stunts -- even put their top officials in harm's way -- in an effort to stand out from the crowd.

Topeka has been renamed Google, Kan., for the month of March and Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., is calling itself Rancho Googlemonga.

The mayoral mayhem so far includes a midwinter dip in Lake Superior (Duluth, Minn.); a scuba dive in a shark tank (Sarasota, Fla.); and a pledge to jump from an airplane or be pushed by the county commissioners (Wilmington, N.C.).

So what did Henderson do? Sent in an application and put out a press release about it.

Mayor Andy Hafen said he takes Google's offer seriously, so a goofy stunt didn't seem like the appropriate response.

"I've heard those kinds of things," he said. "We're not going to do anything like that. Or I should say I'm not going to do anything like that."

Ultimately, Hafen thinks Henderson's application should stand on its own merits.

"We're a progressive city. We're a young city. We're a fast-building city," he said. "I think we fit perfectly with what Google has in mind."

Actually, Google hasn't really said what it has in mind.

When company officials first announced their plans back in February, all they said was they were looking for communities interested in serving as trial locations for an experimental fiber network to serve between 50,000 and 500,000 people.

Google's goal is to fund, build and test a fiber network capable of delivering Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than today's broadband service. Internet providers such as cable and telephone companies will be able to piggyback onto the "open-access" network, giving users the choice of multiple service providers.

Interested cities had until Friday to respond to Google's offer.

A spokesman said the company is not ready to comment on how many responses it got and from whom. Google plans to unveil the winning community or communities later this year.

If Google decides instead to first announce a list of finalists, Hafen predicted a rash of even more outrageous stunts by his counterparts across the country.

"You think it's crazy now, just wait until the short list comes out," the mayor said.

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@review or 702-383-0350.