Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Letter to Sergey and Larry (founders of Google)

Sergey and Larry,

As you may know, everyone here in Sarasota, Florida is excited about the prospects of Google Fiber. Over the past few weeks, we have renamed an island, threw our mayor in a tank with sharks, and almost every business in town is called Google.  If these seem like stunts to simply get your attention...(well)... then you would be right. 

You see, Sarasota probably wouldn't even have been considered in your search for the best city. Probably because we are mostly known for our sunshine and beautiful beaches (like most of Florida). But now that we got your attention, our hope is you take the time to learn more about us.

So let me start off by giving you a little history... in the early 1900's, a man named John Ringling setup shop here and saw a bright future for his enterprise. He was one of the most brilliant entrepreneurs in American history, and he laid the foundation for our unique town by combining the bravado of entrepreneurship with the love or arts and culture. And to this day, we can see the evolution of his spirit in the fabric of our community and great institutions like the Ringling College of Art and Design - which is known nationally as the top producer of digital animation talent in the world.

Another one of our founders was Bertha Honore Palmer, who also was a lover of the arts and nature. Married to a successful entrepreneur in Chicago, they moved down to Sarasota to develop a new life. Much like her life, the legacy of nature conservation is seen through institutions like Mote Marine Laboratory which leads the world in marine research or projects like Florida's Power and Light largest Solar Plant is located here in Sarasota, Florida. Our appreciation for nature and quality of life is seen in how we apply technology.

I realize there are many factors that go into your decision. Clearly, if it was solely based on community support and outreach - we would definately be on the short list. So I took the liberty in putting together a few thoughts for you to consider as you go through your checklist:

1. Weather - You mentioned weather was a important to allow for a speedy deployment. Well, Sarasota weather is unbeatable. It is one of the reasons, Comcast used Sarasota as a test-market for its broadband rollout in the late '90s.

2. Market Diversity - Sarasota has a diverse population, specifically by the age demographic. If you are looking to get accurate adoption statistics, and understand conversion from dial-up or old broadband to the new fiber service, Sarasota will give you market research that accuraely reflects the age demographics of the country (which is the most important demongraphic for broadband adoption.)

3. Local Government Support - (come'on our mayor jumped into a shark tank...'nuff said)

4. Community Support - We currently rank top 5 cities in community support. Our Facebook Fans have gone through the roof, and through the support of the entire community we were able to coverage in over 100 newspapers and on all major TV stations.  Not bad, for a small town :)

5. Infrastructure - We got everything you need - a little dark fiber, poles, right-a-ways and we have two providers (Verizon and Comcast) that could be great partners in building out your test network.

So in summary... I know there are so many choices, and I am sure you may even already made up your mind on a few. But I know (deep down) there was a reason why you asked for community support. This is more than a business decision based on data... this is a decision that could use momentum. You are entering a new market, and no matter how well you plan it out... there will be road blocks. And the last thing you want to do is fight battles on territories that didn't even take the time to submit an application (much less name an island after you).

Maybe you didn't expect the overwhelming fervor over Google Fiber. Certainly you didn't expect cities doing crazy things...  but guess what.... they did. And despite the nay-sayers on those Silcon Valley blogs saying "the antics don't matter"... I think both of us know they do.  Because whether it was intended or not - you created a ground swell in certain parts of the country - and those "crazy" antics are now part of the conversation....

So all I ask.... is to take in consideration --  that there is a direct correlation to the buzz and support we have shown in nominating Sarasota - and the ultimate success you will have if you choose our community.

(anytime you want to visit, let me know... we would love to have you)



Saturday, March 13, 2010

If I were Google, what would I be thinking right now??

We all know Google is brilliant. They have cities renaming themselves, mayors jumping into freezing cold water, and yes (guilty as charged) - you can find me this weekend on Google Island, Sarasota Florida with a Google Daquiri in my hand....

Their aggressive announcement that they will be putting ultra-broadband in a few cities has created quite a stir in the telecom industry. What does this mean? Are they going to compete with existing providers? Work with them? Are they crazy? Nope. They are brilliant.

In a few days, the Federal Government and FCC will lay out their National Broadband Strategy. And guess what - its not good for the telecoms. It is putting pressure on them to build bigger and better networks, and its also pushing them to play nice in the sandbox. Is this a good thing? I am not sure anyone (except lobbyists) can say whether its good or bad.... but it is good for Google.

There is a shift happening - and I think Google sees it (or perhaps they are driving it). The Internet is currently a very closed network. It is owned and operated by a few players that have spent the money to build our the fiber, and bring us broadband.  But the writing is on the wall, to start looking at "opening" it up a bit. Perhaps its because we are ranked 27th in the world in broadband? Or it could be that some people feel the existing providers have just gotten lazy, and are not keeping up with Jones's.

And maybe Google isn't the only brilliant company out there. Maybe Verizon sees a window of opportunity. (marriage made in heaven). Verizon is deploying FIOS (fiber to the home)... and Comcast although they were first to market, they don't have fiber to the home (its Coax). Verizon is having a tough time penetrating a lot of the market, because they were late to market with FiOS. But now... imagine a lunch with the two CEO's of Google and Verizon... and as they order their chicken salad, Lowell (Verizon CEO) leans over and asks Eric (Google CEO) and says "Hey - want to be in the Telecom business?"

So what does this all mean???  Let's review:

1. FCC is pushing for telco's to open their networks
2. Google is looking to boost fiber to the home.
3. Verizon has fiber to the home, but needs capital/help gaining market share
4. Comcast has marketshare, but not fiber to the home.

This may be a perfect storm..... .

And guess what - Sarasota may be the perfect place to see how everyone plays nice in the sandbox.... and if things get a little tense... we can all go have a Google Daquiri, and sing "Don't worry, be happy"

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mercury News covering Google Island

I love this...

A "Serious" Note on Google Fiber

I have received a lot of emails recommending we focus on the true assets of Sarasota, and not focus too much on the "sideshow tactics"... so I want to reassure everyone we are focused on the important stuff - but we also feel that the fun stuff gets people's attention a lot easier. For those who want to enter the discussion on a serious note, here is a list of things we believe needs to happen:

1. We need 10,000+ people from our city go to and fill out this form. Bottom line, Facebook Fan won't be enough (but it helps). We need to show overwhelming response from the community. My best guess on how many people have done it is around 500.

2. We need to form a "BROADBAND STRATEGY" for our community. The process we have gone through in the last few weeks has shown us that we need to have a plan in place. With our Without Google, it would be wise for us to have a well-thought thru plan constructed with input from business leaders that see broadband as a key to economic development.

3. We need to highlight "applications" that can demonstrate the value and power of a ultra-broadband network. Here are some organizations we are working with:
  1. Ringling College or Art and Design - Pre-Post Production, Digital Design
  2. Mote Marine - Collaborative Research, Video Conf, Webcasting
  3. Sarasota Memorial - Remote Care, Data Sharing
  4. The HuB - Data Centers, Tele-Commuting, Tech incubator
  5. Multiple Tech/Creative Businesses - Communications, Vertical Applications
4. We need our leaders to fight for us. The National Broadband Strategy is being announced next week, and I am sure many States will follow suit with broadband strategies as well. There is a lot of stimulus money going toward broadband infrastructure, and many companies are deploying fiber networks throughout the State of Florida. We need to have representation or we will lose out.

5. We need to continue to be Leaders in Technology and Creative industry. The Google Fiber campaign put us on a "map" of cities that understand the need for technology. We were the first and loudest city in the State of Florida. We need to maintain this brand, as an innovative community. Although we have a long way to go to claim our economy as "tech and creative"... we clearly have the capability, the assets and the desire to make the necessary change to move our community in the right direction. WE NEED to continue to build this brand.

So in summary... we are taking this serious, but there is a lot of work yet to be done, and we are depending on your (our) community support. Without a community with focus and purpose, noone will pay attention and nothing will be done.

Send letters to our leadership, asking them to form a Broadband Strategy, and help us improve our local economy... we can do this with or without Google (but don't tell them that yet)

My interview on CNBC

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Why we love Google Island?

Last month Google announced an initiative to brings ultra-broadband to a few cities in order to demonstrate 1-Gig connectivity to the home. Ofcourse the details are still unknown, but here is my take on how I think things will rollout.
First, broadband is a complex business to begin with. There are many providers, and they share fiber, buy fiber, lease fiber. Some cities (municipalities) own fiber. And after the telecom boom a while ago, a lot of companies put fiber in the ground, but ended up never deploying networks.
Companies like Comcast, Verizon has spent billions laying fiber down to bring broadband to the home (ranging from 5mb to 50mb)... which for most of us in our home is plenty of bandwidth. For business applications, there may be more desired.
So what if Google Fiber comes to Sarasota? Ofcourse, it would be a tremendous boost to our local economy and our brand as a city. But what about existing providers (Comcast/Verizon) - don't they already have fiber here? And ofcourse there are other providers like Level3 and FPL who have fiber coming through our city s well. My gut tells me that Google wants to work with these providers. Much like when Comcast was first deploying their network in 1997, Microsoft invested a billion dollars into Comcast to help them speed up the deployment. I think Google is trying to do the same. Light a fire under Internet providers to bring more bandwidth to the home. But in order to do this, they need to find a model that works in a couple of cities.
So what kind of issues will Google face?
1. Working with the goverment - they want to see how much hassle it is to work with cities/counties/towns. The application they are having cities submit will give them a good idea on who is willing to work with Google. They will also be looking at States, and their existing projects going on regarding fiber deployment, stimulus money, capital projects.
2. Working with existing Providers - Google doesn't want to dig and lay new fiber, so they are going to look for cities that may have available fiber... or have providers willing to work with Google in upgrading the network. Google has already shown their ability to work with internet providers over the past years signing peer agreements. Nobody knows what Google will bring to the table, and what the incumbent providers will bring to the table - but one thing is for sure they have a ton of cash - lots of motive for broadband - and they have a lot of experience in building ultra-broadband networks.
3. Working with Business Community - Google may be talking about bringing fiber to the home but they may be looking for a big win in the business community first. For example, connecting university, hospitals, schools, and business districts. This is referred to as the "middle-mile" - which actually will be a lot easier for Google to make happen.
Ultimately, I think Google realizes there are a lot of unknowns - and there is no better way to find out than to just do it. They understand the basics of building broadband networks (they have one of the biggest and baddest networks in the world between their data centers) - but they have yet to dive into the last-mile (with exception of some wifi projects).
There is also an interesting marketing angle here as well... by talking about deploying 1-gig to the home and getting millions of people excited, puts pressure on existing providers to start looking at potential competition. So, this could all be a head-fake (to some degree)... Google deploys a really awesome gigabit network in a city or two, and the nation becomes insanely jealous and starts demanding their providers make it happen. Either way it is a win-win for the consumer, but there are a lot of dominos that need to fall.
So, as we wait for Google to decide on where they deploy their first network - its important to take a step back and look at the big picture. First - there is a lot of fiber out there ready to be lit up - especially middle-mile - so whether Google does it or not... they may motivate someone else to do it instead. Secondly, it may not be too critical for us to have a gigabit network to our house right now (seriously, how much youtube do we need to download) - but what is more important is getting fiber to our schools, businesses, centers of innovation, labs and hospitals. So let's focus and start there first.... and not sweat it too much.