Palo Alto employees boogie for Google | March 19, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 19, 2010

Palo Alto employees boogie for Google

In latest effort to show support for 'Fiber for Communities' application, city turns to the Village People

by Jocelyn Dong

First, the mayor of Duluth, Minn., jumped into a near-freezing Lake Superior in February. Then Topeka, Kan., renamed itself "Google" for the month of March. On Monday, the quest to impress search-engine giant Google took a disco turn in Palo Alto as city staff and residents exuberantly leapfrogged and jived in front of City Hall to the tune of "YMCA" by the Village People.

Uncharacteristic for a city known for its debates over composting and zoning? Maybe — but decorum goes out the window when stakes are high.

Monday's dance event, captured on video and posted on the city's Facebook page, "Palo Alto for Google Fiber," was the city's most lighthearted plea yet to win the affection of Mountain View-based Google, which has launched a nationwide competition called "Fiber for Communities." The winning cities will receive a fiber-optic system capable of providing residents and organizations with a 1-gigabit-per-second connection to the Internet. That, according to Google, is about 100 times the speed the average American has access to now.

"It was kind of loosey-goosey. We weren't sure what we were going to get," said Steve Crow of Crow Digital Media, the video's producer. The aim was for a "flash mob" type video, he said, referring to an event in which people spontaneously gather to do a silly or seemingly random activity and then disperse.

What he got was teens running across the screen piggyback and businessman Tommy Fehrenbach strutting in coat and tie with leapfrogging youth. Behind them, a crowd of about 40 people, including Deputy City Manager Steve Emslie, Utilities Director Valerie Fong and former Mayor Bern Beecham, did their best to rock out, while other city employees "raised the roof" with their hands.

At the appropriate time, four teens unfurled the core message: "Palo Alto for Google Fiber."

"The video is designed to show Google what a fun community we are and how we are behind this," said Crow, who was approached for the work by City Councilman Yiaway Yeh.

The city's application to Google is due March 26. It likely will include a different and more decorous video featuring top city officials making their pitch directly to Google, according to Bob Harrington, adviser to the mayor on broadband issues.

The city is also trying to spur as much community enthusiasm as possible, since Google's decision will factor in the amount of support that community members show for the plan.

Crow said city leaders want to encourage residents and business owners to make their own videos on the theme of "What would your life be like at the speed of Google?" — a slogan he coined and the city adopted.

"Google's 1 gigabit will empower a future that we can't envision as of yet, but we'll be working in it and living in it," Crow said, likening the "revolution" to the introduction of television to a radio-only world.

Meanwhile, neighborhood associations are weighing in on the idea. On Tuesday, the Barron Park Association board approved supporting the city's bid for Google Fiber. The board selected a group of residents to prepare the nomination statement, according to board Vice President Art Liberman.

The College Terrace Residents Association board already voted to nominate Palo Alto, according to recent past board chair Greg Tanaka.

"We actually will be sending out notices to all residents and letting them know how they can help to get fiber to Palo Alto," he said, adding that there are many Google employees living in the neighborhood, which abuts Stanford University.

Other neighborhood groups have taken a less formal approach, e-mailing information about Google Fiber to their residents.

Harrington said the stoking of community support is "going well," although the city's general approach tends to be methodical — not zany.

"It's the typical Palo Alto effort and response," he said. "It's very studied. There are levels of trust that have to be equal or exceeded before action is taken."

People have to feel they understand and trust information before they will ask their friends and colleagues to support a plan, he said.

"I'm optimistic by the time the deadline comes ... plenty of people will feel comfortable enough and spread the word," said Harrington, who himself has attended three meetings a week in an effort to help Palo Alto win the fiber system.

With a week and half to go, the city is entering the final stretch.

"10 days and 7 hours," Harrington said Tuesday morning, chuckling. "I have a counter on my Google page to watch it."

Managing Editor Jocelyn Dong can be e-mailed at Watch the video The dance video is posted at


Posted by PullMyFinger, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Standing around and dancing in the afternoon to the YMCA ,is normal everyday activities for city hall. What was different about yesterday?

Posted by not going to happen, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 16, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Google is not going to give this to Palo Alto because some nerd who lives on Waverley Street just filed a massive lawsuit against Google's partner HTC. I bet you will never see him dancing the YMCA for Google.

Posted by R, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 16, 2010 at 4:26 pm

"not going to happen": Of course Google Employee #2 is building a house about 4 houses away from the generous-on-Halloween-nerd on Waverley St.

I think they'd avoid Palo Alto just because so many high ranking Googlers live there and it would seem self-serving ... and it would be a very non-representative experiment/demonstration-project.

"If this can work in Palo Alto, it can work anywhere."?? Not!

Posted by not going to happen, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 16, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Google is not a charity, despite what some people think. Being self-serving is not a crime.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Any network is as strong as its weakest link
Any broad band network is as broad as its slowest link

If you link a community with broad band you will have fast intra-network links eg around town, but internet speed will be controlled by narrow pipes outside of-- but linked to the Google networks -- quite a few problems to be solved there.

Good that the FCC is focused upon expanding broadband too

We doubt that either the FCC or Google will use Palo Alto as a test bed.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 16, 2010 at 6:49 pm

I would dance for fiber in our town!!!

Basic AT&T DSL -- the only speed/bandwidth that AT&T told me our local lines here on Alma St. can handle -- is unacceptable! I hope that Google will choose us!!!

Thanks for the effort, fellow Palo Alto residents! ANYTHING would be better than what we currently have.

Posted by Don't understand, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 16, 2010 at 9:12 pm



How about Comcast??

Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Google won't do this because they know the history of Palo Alto's fiber, and the know the "Palo Alto Process".

Sorry Palo Alto, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Posted by whysostiff?, a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2010 at 11:41 pm

i clicked the link to watch the "dance event" and not only did the video seem partially staged when it claims to be coincidental footage, but the enthusiasm on part of those present was pathetic, especially if any part of it was non-coincidental.

who doesn't dance to "ymca" in the middle of a town square in support of something they believe in that could benefit an entire community which they are a part of?

if this is the exuberance we're demonstrating to google as a plea for more fiber, then i'm ready to pass out some metamucil to get some of those stiffies to loosen up a bit...c'mon pa!

Posted by Bruce, a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 17, 2010 at 12:01 am

The FUDaholics are at it again, I see. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt campaigns have worked in other communities, but it is not working in Palo Alto. All they hope to do is to get you to hesitate to nominate Palo Alto. If they can distract you past March 26, they win, you lose.

Palo Altans know 'the price is right, zero.' They know a good thing when they see it. No matter what the FUDmongers try, it is clear that if Google fiber comes to town, it may represent about a $50 million investment in our community fiber infrastructure. Infrastructure that will serve those who want it from Day 1, infrastructure that will provide a real competitive environment across the board to the incumbents who chose to stay with their own closed copper networks 'on the cheep,' infrastructure that will stay in service and continue to provide huge benefits long after the Google 'test' is completed, infrastructure the City doesn't have to invest in, yet its citizens enjoy the massive benefits.

You be the judge, then nominate Palo Alto today to 5 PM March 26.

Posted by Marilyn, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2010 at 12:44 am

I was wondering why all the sudden interest by out of towners to this Google fiber idea. FUD huh, now it is starting to make sense.

The history of fiber in this town I know a little something about.

Try this little exercise: Say you invested $200,000 about 13 years ago in a business of your own. Your husband was behind you 'win or tie.' The business didn't take off right away, your mother-in-law felt you were a big spender and an even bigger loser, and she told everyone in the family so. Going to your in-laws for Christmas became no fun.

Just as things were looking up, the bust occurred, dealing your business another set back. Christmases got even more dicey. By the time your business really started to take off, nobody cared. Your business just kept getting better and better, but since yours was a private little company, nobody knew but you. Your husband left you years earlier; at least your Christmases were more pleasant.

You just kept working and saving, saving and working. Ten years from the time you started your business, you had set aside a little extra here and there, truth be told now you had savings of about $500,000. Lo and behold, your 'failed business' was now earning EACH YEAR the $200,000 amount you originally invested. $200 grand a year on a $200 grand investment is pretty comforting. You now have a very successful business on your hands, but the perception is quite different.

Who cares? Now you're happy earning your original investment back every year. And you have distanced yourself from an unpleasant mother-in-law.

Add one zero to every one of those numbers in the example above and you have the Palo Alto dark fiber financials in a nutshell. Now who's the loser?

Posted by Mary, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2010 at 10:42 am

Those folks need to go to Y Camp and learn the arm moves for "Y" "M" "C" "A" if they want to impress Google!

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2010 at 10:45 am

This was discussed on KLIV radio this morning and mocked due to the fact that the video was posted on Facebook and not Google owned YouTube. Perhaps if we want Google, we should at least be using Google services to promote the idea rather than the competitor, Facebook. I know there are FB groups, but are there any Google groups promoting this?

Posted by Dancing With the Stars, a resident of another community
on Mar 17, 2010 at 11:21 am

What a beautiful sight: Marvin, pat, Fireman, Mayor Pat Burt,the entire City Council, City Manager Jim Keene, and all the other residents, politicians, and staffers cutting a rug together on City Hall Plaza in Palo Alto's version of "Dancing with the Stars"!

Posted by Evan, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 17, 2010 at 11:22 am

Seriously? This is how city employees are spending their time?

Palo Alto already has Fiber internet for business, and Comcast Blast is available to homes. There are really other cities much more deserving of this.

Posted by Tom, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2010 at 11:28 am

Yes, folks, there is FUD and there is History, and doubtless Lots of Reasons This Won't Happen. But keep your eyes, as they say, on the prize. This would be a tremendous investment in Palo Alto's infrastructure, enabling things that we probably can't well imagine yet because they involve the movement of such huge amounts of data.

Beyond that, to my mind, a place where Google employees can experience first-hand the process of bringing this into a community seems like an outstanding idea -- they'll be able to bring that experience to projects elsewhere and make those more successful.

Let's please get behind this.

Posted by Solon Finkelstein, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 17, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Very nice but why not post on Google's You Tube instead of rival Facebook?

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Hi Don't Understand...

I have heard horror stories from Comcast internet customers here in Palo Alto. In addition, Comcast charges roughly twice as much for the equivalent speed/bandwidth from AT&T high speed DSL...but the speed/bandwidth are shared across the network with customers.

From what I hear and read, customers experience "slow times" during hours of peak interest (such as the weekend or weekdays during lunch and from 5pm-9pm). I have heard that bandwidth is also bottlenecked once a customer hits a certain level. Besides, $50+ a month is a bit hefty for subpar service during typical hours.

Regardless, it is sad when the ONLY viable alternative to poor DSL service over old lines is to purchase expensive cable DSL from the ONLY other high speed provider (which is probably why it is so expensive). We live in the heart of the web sector of the Silicon Valley. Thus, it is amazing that our local lines are so old that AT&T cannot even sell me anything better than "basic" DSL.

This is why I welcome Google to our community! If they are willing to do all of this for us...then why should anyone stand in their way? I think that some people forget that there are plenty of us living in Palo Alto who cannot afford to splurge on an expensive ISP alternative each month. If this can be built at no cost to us and the test can be beneficial to Google's research arm, then let's embrace it!

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2010 at 10:52 pm

BTW, residents of Duluth and Topeka probably have almost identical access to high speed internet as we do. Of course, we live in the very heart of the Silicon Valley. Our economy is largely BASED upon a "need for speed." Access to such speed/bandwidth is vital for some college student at Stanford (or Paly) to use his/her ingenuity develop "the next big thing."

I suspect that many of those residents have the ability to achieve better speed/bandwidth with AT&T than the basic service that our old, local lines can provide.

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