Town Square

Palo Alto's fiber hopes now rest with Google

Original post made on Feb 23, 2010

Palo Alto's fruitless and frustrating quest for a citywide high-speed Internet network flickered back to life Monday night, when city officials enthusiastically agreed to pursue Google's proposed new ultra-high-speed fiber project. Related story:
■ [Web Link Palo Alto gets another shot at 'fiber to the home']

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, February 22, 2010, 11:10 PM


Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 23, 2010 at 12:13 am

Unnecessary except for idiots who would rather watch TV on their computers than on their TV.

Posted by Bin
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 23, 2010 at 12:43 am

Why do you say that Howard?
Do you not want to have something better then what ATT or comcrap is offering us?
This shameful Fiber project palo alto built, is just siting their unused and wasting away.
If Google can do something with it like fix it to the state that it was original intended for I say go for it.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2010 at 7:42 am

And what is wrong with watching tv on your computer? In a family situation watching tv shows, movies, etc. by one person is a viable option for being much more selective. This is only going to become more common, particularly as it will soon be the case that streaming movies from Netflix can be displayed on the tv.

Posted by T Tierney
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 23, 2010 at 8:00 am

Don't criticize poor old Howard. There are many people who like the old ways of doing things, and watching television with the rest of the community used to be part of the social fabric. When you do not like change and you do not understand change, you call those who change idiots. It is surprising that he could write in to a public forum, though.

Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 23, 2010 at 10:18 am

I'm actually ok with this. We just need to be comfortable that Google will know everything that you're doing.

Posted by Paul
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 23, 2010 at 10:35 am

Today Comcast knows everything I am doing on the internet, though I suspect they don't give a #$%. If I choose to use gmail (which I do) then Google already knows everything I am doing there.

The issue is not WHETHER I will use the internet; the issue is HOW. Having a high speed connection is essential to my being able to work from home, saving gas, reducing impact on the environment, reducing traffic, etc.

Comcast and AT&T have been terrible providers for my location in the heart (or so we think) of silicon valley. Higher speeds for less cost would make me more productive.

Anyone who has not already gone to the Google site to request Palo Alto be selected just does not get it.

Posted by Bambi
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 23, 2010 at 11:18 am

Come on you guys this is a one time opportunity for us in Palo Alto. Google started right here and this should be Palo Alto not anyone else getting this chance. Why not. I could care less how you use this. Internet, TV Radio who cares really. Its a great thing for our town

Posted by Rod
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 23, 2010 at 11:19 am

Yes, please, everyone contact Google to support them providing this to Palo Alto. An incredible opportunity!

Posted by Bill
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 23, 2010 at 11:28 am

How does an individual effectively contact Google to help PA get this project?

Posted by Dennis
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 23, 2010 at 11:40 am

The URL to comment to google is Web Link

Prepare to be creeped out a little. I just got an email reply when I did not enter in an email address. Clearly, Google knows who I am.

What I have not seen addressed is whether we get static IP addresses. I want to host some web services and I do that now with ATT. The proposal includes "web pages" but it is hard to tell if this is at all robust.

Posted by Evan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 23, 2010 at 11:40 am

I love watching television on my computer. Don't see any problem with that. What I do have a problem with is Comcast internet. They recently told me I used 1TB of bandwidth last month and they're going to shut down my internet.

Only problem? Not a chance I used anywhere near that. I'd LOVE for a new option.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2010 at 12:16 pm

When we first moved here, we ordered "Elite" high speed internet through AT&T's DSL service. We paid for it...received our equipment...and attempted to plug it in. Unfortunately, it didn't work.

After a few days of long conversations with AT&T, they sent a "repairman" -- even though AT&T threatened that we might have to pay for a "repair" ourselves.

Sure enough, the problem was NOT in my house...but in the telephone lines. The AT&T serviceman told me that the lines here are "too old" to handle the type of bandwidth that we ordered. We were stuck with "basic" DSL service.

I found it weird that we live in the epicenter of the Silicon Valley -- and can only purchase basic DSL due to old telephone lines in the area.

So...I would welcome anything that would improve upon that without costing us more in taxes or hidden fees.

Posted by Don Draper
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Although many people already know this, it bears repeating that this definitely doesn't just mean you could only watch TV on your computer. You could watch TV on your TV with this too - you can stream blu-ray quality movies to devices like blu-ray players and now even internet enabled TV's. I wonder if you had the google internet if possibly you could then partner it with ATT Uverse.
That's just the entertainment side of things - enthusiastically supporting this is just about the biggest no brainer in history.

Posted by Eva
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 23, 2010 at 12:56 pm

We turned off cable last year, and got Neflix with a Roku box. It allows us to stream thousands of movies & TV shows to our TV. I only pay $16 a month for Netflix. The ROI on the $99 box (compared to cable) was less than 3 months.

I welcome faster, better service and a box that would allow me to stream Hulu to my TV. Then I would never even consider cable again.

Posted by GASTON O.
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2010 at 1:30 pm

We had the same experience that Nayeli writes about with AT&T.

How ever I refused to pay unless I had a service up an running. When after 3 "repairman" visits the service was not working, I dumped AT&T for good. And I've never been back.

I agree that Comcast is not that great, but in terms of comparison with AT&T. I'll take them any time, even the fees are more reasonable if you bundle.

It will be quite exciting to see if Palo Alto can lure Google into upgrading this critical infrastructure. And HP and Facebook should be on board as well, they should embrace this project as Palo Alto Tech champions.

Posted by Tech Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 23, 2010 at 3:58 pm

The problem with the first Palo Alto try was that they targeted North Palo Alto. The fiber would have been successful with all the engineers and techie types in South Palo Alto. Financial types, lawyers and executives don't care that much about speed; you don't need fiber speed for email and Wikipedia. This Google plan sounds like a great idea.

Posted by Carlos
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 23, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Nayeli, I don't like COMCAST, but if you wants something much faster than DSL and you have COMCAST cable service, you can get their high- internet service which is very fast.

Posted by Larry
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 23, 2010 at 7:38 pm

If all you want to do is watch movies, why does this require fiber? Why not DVDs or satellite?

Posted by fxguy
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 23, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Traveling around the world, I noticed that I, in the heart of Silicon
Valley, had the slowest bandwidth of all places I had been. Given the
density of engineers in this area, it is a big irony.

After being hostage of the incarnations of ATT (ATT, PacBell, SBC,
ATT-Reborn) and having a top speed of 1Mbps (top distance from CO
limits bandwidth), I switched to Comcast 3 months ago, which offers
10x the bandwidth but has been quite unreliable.

Reading some of the posts, it looks like people totally miss the idea
of the fiber to the home. What you are going to get are things that
don't exist yet, and that is the purpose of this pilot project. Lay
down the infrastructure and people will figure out how to use. Don't
say it is TV or movies. These sure will be there, but many more other
things not yet invented. The infrastructure needs to be there.

2-way video will be a large part of this. I would like to attend
conferences, classes, have discussions, all thru this new media from
my home - 2-way. If you try this today, you are limited to the
bandwidth, there is no quality of service, a very small screen. Think
about putting these things in your large display in HD. It will bring
people closer, throughout the country and the world.

May be calling to a medical office, you can get screened from the home
using high-resolution interactive imagery. You can access more
doctors, not just local ones.

Think about grandparents living far away from their grandkids. They
could read them a story before bedtime, using 2-way video. Win-win
for both.

The possibilities are endless. What everyone needs to be doing is
requesting higher bandwidth to the home and start dreaming about
the things that don't exist and you would like to see, what can
help people, improve quality of life. I'm pretty sure the 1Gbps
bandwidth won't be enough. :-)

Posted by Joanne
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 23, 2010 at 11:57 pm

Our experiences with Comcast, then AT&T (U-verse is a joke), then Comcast again over more than 10 years tells me there has to be a better way. Reliability is real important to us, and not delivered so far. Sure enough, when I visit my relatives in Sweden, they have a hot Internet connection and some real creative local services.

It just feels like America is on the wrong track with this Internet stuff. Maybe this Google idea will help positive change occur. We certainly could use it here in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Somebody is saying you can tell Google you want them to come. Does anyone know how?

Posted by fxguy
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 24, 2010 at 1:37 am


you can go to this site to nominate Palo Alto:

Web Link

I had requested my Palo Alto friends to go above and nominate
Palo Alto, and everyone reading here can do that as well.

And Palo Alto city city can show interest, and I believe
that is what the news above indicate, that they have until March 26
to get into the list.

Posted by why here?
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 24, 2010 at 2:14 am

Palo Alto is the last place that Google should enable with fiber. There are many communities that need fiber for economic development; our community should get off its duff and DO IT! Palo Alto doesn't have FTTH because it is not creative, and doesn't take risks. Why reward that? Google, take your business and ideas elsewhere, where they will be better appreciated and will do a lot more good. Trying to profile "average use" from a city with a demographic profile like Palo Alto will also skew the numbers for this Google experiment. Palo Alto is not an "average" city in terms of use. Palo Also is a bad choice for this experiment, even though I would love to see fiber here. Do no harm? Come on, Google! Google will create an opportunity cost for a more needy city of it deploys fiber in Palo Alto.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2010 at 8:01 am

Technology in Europe is way ahead of us as it affects the everyday lives of the people.

For example:-

A phone number tells you by looking at it whether you are calling a house land line or a mobile cell phone. Receiving calls on cell phones are free, even though calling another cell phone from your own cell phone or your house phone is more expensive, but at least you know before you call what type of phone you are calling.

Land line phones can be set up so that all calls will automatically be transferred to your cell phone when you are away from home.

You can send texts from your home computer to a dumb phone, or even to multi phone numbers. Dumb phones are still as popular as ever because of this feature.

TV stations (eg the BBC) are able to split their channels, eg the same channel can broadcast 4 olympic events at the same time.

TV stations have teletext which enables pages of broadcast information to be broadcast on unused space - this has been there for decades and although is not as used as much now because of the internet, it is still available on all tvs and very useful for breaking news and tv schedules.

Internet access is more readily available with much better service. It is treated as an important utility to all homes and businesses, just as water, gas and electricity.

The US is behind on all this, and Silicon Valley and Palo Alto are even behind other areas of the US.

Posted by Pecuniac
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2010 at 8:13 am

Lets hope that whatever billing system is easier to understand than Comcrap or ATT's.
My vote is for a reliable high speed connection that sends a message to the telecoms that the public is prepared to send their control of communications to the dust bin of history. Hopefully, the message will impress the 'Club' at the FCC.

Posted by Carlito
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 24, 2010 at 10:00 am

The majority of you people make me laugh!!!!!!!!!! The main reason you like the Google plan is because you want to be able to watch movies on your computer???? Get of your waxed ass and do something productive and helpful for people in need.
Silicon valley? There is the wrong idea that this area of the world is the non plus ultra of the technology world and their inhabitants live in a Jetsonian environment. Guess what! Certain countries in Asia and several in Europe are way ahead of us, I suggest at least read the newspapers, and do research on the web.


Posted by Freud
a resident of Professorville
on Feb 24, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Carlito speaks the truth. Undeneath all the know-it-all rhetoric so typical of Palo Alto online forum dialog is a core of just plain lazy, vain ego.

Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 24, 2010 at 6:07 pm


Yes, some nations have better broadband or wireless infrastructure than us. But, the US and Silicon Valley have not only created our fair share of the best infrastructure technology, as well as the applications that deliver more of the business value and therefore deliver higher margins. That's what we're doing all day. So we'd like to watch a movie - so what. We'll also dream and create the nexl great apps on this new faster infrastructure.

Quit bashing America and our town. Get a life.

I've traveled around the world to Scandanavia, the leader in wireless netorks, and Korea and China, the leaders in wired broadband residential networks. There may be some advantages to fast access, but they are a small part of the innovation recipie.


Posted by why here?
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 24, 2010 at 7:28 pm

George: "I've traveled around the world to Scandanavia, the leader in wireless netorks, and Korea and China, the leaders in wired broadband residential networks. There may be some advantages to fast access, but they are a small part of the innovation recipie."

Huh? Have you read any of the recent reports about the fragile nature of this place, from a tech innovation and long-term sustainability standpoint? If anyone needs to get out and look around...well, you get my drift.

Palo Alto (and the region) has largely become self-prepossessing tech backwater, still infused with innovation, but fast **losing ground** to other cities/regions compared with other already-established and coming cities/regions - and don't let the puffed up local press or false pride kid you on that. We are living on past laurels, and <still> live with the silly notion that because much of the early fertilization of tech happened in Palo Alto (actually a direct bi-product of Stanford's presence, the place that PA whiners are constantly bashing). You sound like an Ethiopian who is bragging about how important Ethiopia is in the *current* state of things, just becuse our species' DNA was largely triggered form the region.

Seoul, Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong, the entire northern tier of Europe, UK, France, etc. etc. Come on! Stop living in the past!

Palo Alto? A serious tech center? Not any more; not compared to what's happening in other places. What we are is a fast-aging community with a decaying infrastructure, bound up by a largely unsound governance model. There's a lot of money here; that's what keeps the whole thing ticking, with Stanford going to become *more and more* important to our "success" as we turn into a place for retired tech generals. You think I'm kidding, look at the population projections for the city.

Sure there's potential here, but why should Google spend its money here, of all places. Google, spend your money in places that NEED your money, and leave the places that have been too uncreative to innovate and take risk - especially those places that have missed opportunity after opportunity - to tag along once you've figured out how the *average* community uses deployed fiber.

I'd love to see fiver here, but not this way - not at the cost ofo some more needy community getting it. Innovation? Where have all these hot local innovators been all these years - including some pro-FTTH Council members? I'll tell you. They've been largely sucking their thumbs, unable to agree or work together on anything that's functional - unable to create a compelling value proposition about fiver that SELLS; unable to garner community support, and instead contemplating their navels for 15 years with one lame FTTH plan after another. Do we deserve Google fiber? Hell, NO!

I hate to think of all the petty local would-be fiber-gods getting their mitts on the capacity that Google's enablement would bring. They're mostly a bunch of big babies who just know how to scream at City Council members and blab about how they ran Cable Co-op (into the ground, btw), and howh "forward-looking" they've been all these years - forgetting that neither they nor their policymakers or their city management haven't been able to EXECUTE on plan. How many $$$ spent on thisi initiative, again? - not including staff $$$. Now they want to get a Google freebee, while EPA and other local communities who really NEED and would USE fiber in really novel ways that help move the ENTIRE community forward (instead of tony Professorville insiders using it for their lame home businesses).

Google, *please* don't deploy fiber in Palo Alto. Palo Alto does not have a shred of innovation or execution chops in its DNA - not any more. Let the holier-than-thou'ers truck down to Milpitas, or Newark, or San Jose, or over to EPA or Redwood City - and put their so-called "vision" to work helping really needy communities, instead of giving them a largely undeserved gift that will be largely wasted (considering comparative lost opportunity costs) on what we have proven ourselves to deliver, from a municipal standpoint - lots of "projects" that go nowhere. Palo Alto is spoiled; ;it needs to grow up. It needs to feel a little pain that filters past Monday evening Council meetings - enough pain so that the everyday, normally uninvolved citizen wakes up to how dysfunctional governance and the whiney-level layer of "community involvers" really are. Then things might get better around here; then we might get to a place where this city works again. Why spoil a spoiled brat with more goodies? It just doesn't make sense.

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2010 at 7:35 pm

PA should decline any Google offer and defer to EPA, is not the need greater in EPA ?

We in PA can afford HS internet, we should defer to the less advantaged in EPA for the Google investment, it is only fair and just.

Posted by here?
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Feb 24, 2010 at 9:05 pm

why here -

The logic is, if we don't do Google's ultra-high-speed fiber project, it will fix the problems with PA city government and all the other problems Palo Alto is facing.


Outside of that consideration, there is plenty of creativity in Palo Alto likely to develop new ways to leverage ultra-high-speed fiber.

Posted by why here?
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 24, 2010 at 11:54 pm

"The logic is, if we don't do Google's ultra-high-speed fiber project, it will fix the problems with PA city government and all the other problems Palo Alto is facing."

You're missing the point. The logic is that Palo Alto doesn't need this as badly as other communities, and we have in the past screwed up every single telecommunications play attempted here - including Cable Co-op and the FTTH fiasco that has gone on hopelessly for years. Now, the same players who were responsible for those failures are pumping Google for a favor. Google will do more good somewhere else. Palo Alto doesn't deserve Google's help as much as EPA and other communities do. Google's motto is "do no harm". Advantaging an already rich city at the opportunity cost of ignoring other cities in far more need creates an interesting social opportunity cost scenario for Google. Here's hoping that Google does the right thing, and deploys fiber services elsewhere.

Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 25, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Hi why here...

You wrote: "You're missing the point. The logic is that Palo Alto doesn't need this as badly as other communities..."

Maybe you are speaking of yourself? I could certainly use something better than the terrible service that AT&T offers (DSL) or something as apparently inconsistent as Comcast.

It is strange that my father-in-law lives wayyyyy outside of town...out in the the midwest...but has better DSL service than I have here in the heart of the Silicon Valley!

I don't know if this is true all over Palo Alto, but I live in "Midtown"...between Oregon Expressway and Loma Verde...and between Middlefield and Alma St. I was told by AT&T several times that our local lines are old and insufficient to allow any bandwidth above BASIC (which is less than a MB/sec). Even with "basic" DSL, my "red light" comes on and off on an almost daily basis. I was told that this was due to the lines in the area (which are outside of AT&T's control).

This isn't exactly an "old" area of town. How is it that the telephone lines are insufficient for higher bandwidth DSL...and that there doesn't seem to be any plan to change this in the near future?

I would welcome ANYTHING that would improve the quality of life in Palo Alto without adding much more to the ever-increasing cost of living here. I'm not sure if Google is doing this as a benevolent outreach...or in the interest of testing out such service while considering how well this could work. Since Palo Alto would definitely get higher use out of all of this -- then I would think that this would be a great "experiment" into feasibility. If it will work in Palo would work anywhere.

Why here...while you can talk about how "rich" Palo Alto might help to realize that many of us are NOT rich. Sure, some in this town might make more money than the national average (before California's massive per capita taxes, fees and additional costs are measured). However, there are plenty of us "middle class" Palo Alto residents who are forced to absorb the increasingly massive cost of living here.

Remember -- the cost of living is much higher in California than most other places in America. Taxes, fees, inflation and "hidden costs" (bridge tolls, supplemental taxes, CRVs, etc..) make it difficult to survive on even a typical "middle class" household income. Moreover, many goods and services are far more expensive in Palo Alto than in most of California. Who is forced to bear the brunt of this? Those of us who earn less than a six figure household income are carrying the weight of this 1000lb gorilla on our backs.

So, I would definitely welcome any improvement in internet service that could help us without costing us another arm and leg in taxes and fees.

Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 25, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Whether Palo Alto or East Palo Alto "deserves" this is a red herring.

From my understanding (out of my butt), Google is doing this to help test next generation Internet-based services. The more people use the Internet, the more money they make. Google is probably choosing communities based on this criteria more than whether a community "deserves" it or not. If a community is best suited for helping them drive new and innovated uses where Google can throw their adwords in, that community will likely get a nod.

They're a business, not a charity. Let's not confuse the two.

Posted by Foghorn Leghorn
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 26, 2010 at 1:09 am

Ah say, Google is not a charity, and it is not the government which, with all its altruistic rationals, marches to the tune laid down by the incumbents in America. The telecom lobby, it is said, is among the most powerful in Washington, DC. Follow the money.

It is no coincidence that 'unserved' and 'underserved' communities and countrysides were favored when billions in federal stimulus funds were handed out.

Guess where the incumbents have no interest in going?

Exactly, the boonies. Why? Because there is no money out there for them. I went out there, but the pickin's were slim.

So billions of Uncle Sam moola go to the boondocks while the telecom/cable duopoly foxes are left alone in America's top 100 markets where us chickens are roosting. My chicken coop had been turned into an ugly slaughter house by those ruthless predators.

Who's going to help us? The chicken lobby? I don't think so.

I can tell you the guy who ran off a laundry list of 'failure' points probably works for one of the telecom Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) offices.

Like I said, ruthless predators...I said, ruthless predators.

Posted by Sergey
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 2, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Some other cities are more interested in Google than Palo Alto. Story on CNN: Web Link

Posted by Adam
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Mar 17, 2010 at 8:04 pm

well any way it would be great if we could get it it would allow Palo Alto to innovate even more, and it would let me host my own site