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Washington, D.C.'s CTO works on sales pitch to Google

Bryan Sivak, Washington D.C.’s chief technology officer, has an added responsibility these days: pitching for the city. He's tasked with convincing Google to bring an ultrafast experimental broadband network to the District and is pitching many reasons why residents of the nation’s capital city should be chosen.

For one, Google would make a good impression on the federal government leaders who live here.

"Then there is the obvious benefit for them to be visible in D.C. with all the regulators here who are working on issues they care about," Sivak said.

But also, the city would make it easy for the company, Sivak said. The District already has a fiber network that connects schools, libraries and city office buildings. The company could connect to this “middle mile” loop of fiber lines, making it easier to bring 1 gigabit-per-second fiber to the doorsteps of residents, Sivak said in an interview last Friday.

“This would help them get their network up quickly, which seems to be what they want in their tests,” Sivak said.

He is heading the city’s effort to apply for Google’s broadband Internet test, which will bring speeds that are 100 times faster what is typically provided to Web users today. Dozens of cities and town around the country have announced plans to apply including Montgomery County, Md.; Columbia, Missouri; St. Louis; Lincoln, Neb.; and Seattle.

But only 50,000 to 500,000 residents will get the service, according to Google. And the number of localities can be one or several, the firm said. That means Sivak has to be strategic about what areas of the city should be part of the District’s application, he said.

He said Wards 5, 7 and 8 are less developed and to bring the network would be a “great place to experiment with economic development.” But adoption of such a network could be a problem in lower-income areas. Even though Google said its service would be competitively priced, studies show that people who don’t pay for broadband say that is party because it is too expensive to pay for monthly fees and computers to get online.

With that in mind, the Northwest Washington Ward 3, where almost every home has broadband access, could be another target because its residents would likely adopt the service and serve as a good testbed. Google said it wants to experiment with 1 gigabit speeds to develop new applications based on those access speeds.

Sivak said he has many questions about how the network would be deployed and has talked to people at the company last week to get more answers. Meanwhile, he’s trying to drum up more support and input by residents on their ideas.

“There is just so much interest right now from residents of the District and now we’re just trying to figure out how we can convince we’re the place Google would want to pick,” he said.

By Cecilia Kang  |  February 22, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Broadband , Google  
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