SAN JOSE, Calif. — They're swilling Google-tinis in Sarasota, and vowing to Google-ize the names of their first-born children up in Duluth, Minn. Topeka has been temporarily rechristened Google, Kan. And mayors throughout the realm are vying for the search giant's favor, from sucking up to it on Twitter to jumping into icy Lake Superior in their shorts.
All this to persuade Google to bring lightning-quick Internet access to their communities.
From Berkeley, Calif., to Boca Raton, hundreds of cities have joined the stampede to be chosen as a host for Google's grand fiber-optic experiment — the free installation of a network delivering Internet speeds 100 times faster than what most Americans have ever seen.
Even St. Petersburg has jumped aboard, with a fan page on Facebook called "Downtown St Pete wants the Google Fiber Experiment."
"The whole country is going goo-goo over Google," said Josh Wallace with the city of Palo Alto, Calif., which, by the way, is also courting Google for a slice of the fiber pie.
Google, which naturally would benefit from faster search capabilities and the advertising that would bring, first dangled the red meat Feb. 10. On a Web site conspicuously thin on detail, the Web Goliath announced it was "planning to build and test ultrahigh-speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the country. Our goal," the statement said, "is to experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better, and faster for everyone."
Nice offer. Google would pay for installation, running cable under or above ground to every business and home in a host community. It would be an "open access" network that service providers like phone and cable companies could piggy-back on and then compete for customers.
It's also a way to nudge the federal government to think big with its own national broadband plan, due to be unveiled next week. Google says its network would make "possible the emergence of online video and countless other applications" while "ultra high-speed bandwidth will drive more innovation — in high-definition video, remote data storage, real-time multimedia collaboration, and others that we cannot yet imagine."
Hundreds of cities, major and minor, have jumped into the game, rallying their citizenry to lobby Google directly while submitting online applications showing why they'd make the perfect home for this fiber-optic extravaganza. But Duluth, Minn., Mayor Don Ness was the first to literally jump.
"At first, I had no interest in doing it," Ness said of his publicity-milking plunge last month into Lake Superior.
Sarasota has been bitten particularly hard by the fiber bug. Not only have boosters renamed a local water-bound city park "Google Island," but baristas are busy pushing Google Lattes and the barkeeps at NFL Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon's restaurant are shaking up Google-tinis (pomegranate juice, Smirnoff vodka, Monin Red Passion Fruit syrup and sweet-and-sour mix).
"The stars are lining up for Sarasota," said Matt Orr, a 33-year-old entrepreneur who pushed for the island's name change. "I'd just like to say to Google: 'We are the perfect community to bring your cable to.' "