Google Fiber Lays Groundwork for Attracting Tech Biz, Says Mayor Reed

Originally published by Hypopotamus on August 10, 2016. 

Now that Google Fiber is rolling out 1-gigabit-per-second online access to a few downtown Atlanta neighborhoods this week, Mayor Kasim Reed thinks his pitch to lure more businesses to the city will gain more momentum.

Google Fiber was first announced for Atlanta in January 2015, was the lack of local high-speed fiber access up until this week much of an obstacle for Reed in previous pitch meetings?

“No, but now it’s an elevator,” Reed told Hypepotamus, “and it distinguishes you when you have the largest Google Fiber deployment in America. It sends a signal to people who are really passionate about building their dreams.”

Realizing those dreams, and building on what he’s calling Atlanta’s “moment,” was on Reed’s agenda Tuesday as he ran the first official test of the Google Fiber Space’s upload/download speeds at Ponce City Market. He also spoke about the opportunities high-speed access offers for individuals, families, Atlanta’s disadvantaged neighborhoods and local businesses.

Residents in Midtown East and Piedmont Heights can sign up for Google Fiber through Sept. 29th. Those living in Old Fourth Ward, Morningside/Lenox Park and Virginia-Highland have until Dec. 8th. Prices begin at $50 per month.

Google also says “thousands” of apartments in and around Atlanta are now offering high-speed access once their tenants sign up. More are on the way as the company continues installing some 3,000 miles worth of fiber optic cable in and around the city. (More information is available here.)

AT&T and Comcast are also deep into plans to bring faster digital speeds to Atlanta. The ability to now reach online speeds 100 times faster than traditional services “is a fundamental element (for the city) because we’re making the case where Atlanta is a place where if you’re a tech entrepreneur, it’s where you want to be,” Reed said, “because we have fundamentals that compete with any other place around the world.”

That’s part of Atlanta’s “moment” in the spotlight, thanks to efforts that have now branded the city as a major technology center with a vibrant startup community. The city also offers the third-largest concentration of Fortune 500 firms in the country. (Attracting major sporting events like a Super Bowl to a state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Stadium doesn’t hurt.)

Yet, the city still has distressed neighborhoods that are in danger of missing the digital revolution, which is why Reed and others linked the Google Fiber news to an earlier announcement of a $10 million federal TIGER grant for the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive Innovation Corridor Project.

“We continue to see a stark divide in our country and in Atlanta,” Reed said in his prepared remarks. “Google Fiber will help take down these barriers by helping make internet access affordable and available for more people, and will set up every one of our residents for success in a rapidly connecting world.

“It’s been said that Atlanta is a city of dreamers,” he added, “and Google Fiber is part of the infrastructure for the next generation of dreams.”

TechBridge, a non-profit organization that provides IT services to groups serving disadvantaged communities, is partnering with Google Fiber and the Non-profit Technology Network (NTEN) for the search giant’s Digital Inclusion Fellowship Program. TechBridge CEO James Franklin said his organization is working with five non-profits by providing tools and training “on how to use this new-found access and equipment, so they could have the families and individuals they work with participate in the digital economy.”

Edwards said the business world never knows where the next Google will come from, so all neighborhoods need fast internet services. “You can’t have high-tech businesses moving into the MLK Corridor without high-speed broadband access.” He cited large tech companies like HP that literally started in a garage. “They did not start in an innovation hub. We don’t know where innovation is going to happen, so that’s why we owe it to ourselves, our citizens and our country to give the best possible access in all our cities.”