Asheville holds a town-hall meeting to build support for Google’s fiber project

March 18: Almost 200 people assembled in the Civic Center ballroom this evening to discuss the merits of and strategy for being the town that Google selects as its testing ground for bringing 1 gigabit/second Internet “last mile” connectivity to virtually all local businesses and residents. The session was emceed by Ben Teague, executive director of the Economic Development Coalition.

Here’s video of City Council member Gordon Smith, who’s helping lead the push to woo Google, making introductory remarks:

And here’s video of panelist Jose Ibarra, of Applied Solutions Group, explaining the potential benefits for local students if Google selects the Asheville area:

What follows is a lightly edited stream of messages that were sent via Twitter, mostly by Xpress reporter Margaret Williams (with assists from AskAsheville, @itswendylou, @edgymama, @h0zae, @themadteaparty and @thinkglobally):
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José Ibarra of Applied Solutions Group says: Google Avl push is “grassroots.” Possibilities for local students are great. There are 26,000 students who would benefit from the google fiber initiative. You can give students laptops, but if there’s not enough bandwidth, they can’t use them, Ibarra continues.

Two photos of the panel discussion: http: //yfrog.com/4zrzuj http: //yfrog.com/0y21198575j Photos by @AskAsheville.

We are getting students involved with “Bring It Home Google” education portion of the effort, a panelist says.

For jobs: This would be like the railroad coming to Avl in the 1800s, says Troy Tolle of Digital Chalk. The U.S. invented Internet, but is falling behind in tech, innovation, bandwidth, says Tolle. Let’s make Asheville the innovation capital of the world.

Fill out the form to nominate Asheville for Google Fiber at www.googleavl.com or http: //www.google.com/appserve/fiberrfi/public/options

Congressman Heath Shuler is “in full support” of Asheville’s push to get Google fiber, one of the panelists notes.

The fiber landscape is changing, says Hunter Goosmann of ERC Broadband. What we “need to support are the ideas [and] to put in place the infrastructure,” Goosmann continues.

Let’s make AVL the innovation capital of the world, says one panelist.

Panel is quizzed by public: What is the status of current fiber in Asheville?

Goosmann replies: Google’s project is a total game-changer … “Google wants an open network, meaning other companies can use it to provide their own services, and Google plans to bring fiber connections TO EVERY HOME. Our existing fiber comes through Asheville, but not to the home, “the last mile,” he says.

How many miles of fiber needed? asks an audience member. There are 75 miles in ground now, Goosman replies. As to how many Google would have to install: That’s “almost impossible to answer,” he says.

What does Google want to hear in our nominations of Asheville? Likely they don’t want to hear us say we’ll download kid pictures faster or Asheville is a great beer town, notes an audience member.
Tolle replies: Innovation is key to them; Google allows each of their employees 20 percent of their time for personal innovation. Google wants to hear about our innovation and creativity — to hear about things we are already trying to do that wouldn’t be possible without better/bigger bandwidth. What a good fit this is for Asheville! says Tolle. We’re just asking for you to dream.

If Google doesn’t come to Asheville, can our effort here be part of a coalition that will DO something in future? asks a woman in the audience.
This effort isn’t going to stop here, whether or not Google chooses Asheville, says Ibarra.

Goosmann: Google wants to build an open network so each of you can utilize it; so businesses can use it.

What are the downsides? Will they own us and all our data? a woman asks.
Asheville doesn’t have to become a corporate Google; The network would be for us to use, create & innovate; Google’s push will bring attention and spotlight to Asheville, Goosmann says.

Tolle: Google already has a half-billion dollar data center down the road in Hickory; Apple has one; Microsoft is thinking about building one. Asheville will have something; Asheville has synergy!

What will Google’s project do for wireless connections in Asheville, someone asks. Tolle replies: The fastest you probably have now at home is 300 megabytes on download; if we get Google, then Asheville and the county can provide lots of hi-speed wireless.

Sheets of paper are hanging on walls all around room for people to write their ideas of how high-speed connectivity would impact the following areas: economic development;  health care; climate data; faith communities, music, underserved communities, sustainability & green economy; technology etc. Group participants are asked to write in ideas & sign their name, and move on to next topic.

The meeting is breaking into groups, some people are writing on sheets.

The Google Town Hall meeting is winding down; some still writing ideas; coordinator Ben Teague says next step is to gather ideas, keep nominating!

Here’s the link to a back-channel Google document for #GoogleAVL: http: //ow.ly/1o2rX

Some photos by @AskAsheville:
http: //twitpic.com/19fc00 Photo of @GSocialMedia @DulcitaLove @H0zae
http: //twitpic.com/19evgt – Photo of @h0zae @ttolle and many others
http: //twitpic.com/19eqpi – Photo of: @ttolle, who compares railroad coming to Asheville, to Google coming to AVL

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About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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4 thoughts on “Asheville holds a town-hall meeting to build support for Google’s fiber project

  1. Ami Worthen

    The Mad Tea Party (local retro rock duo) twitter handle is actually @themadtea.

    This is all very exciting

    Let’s do this thing, people!

    – Ami

  2. who

    Ask not what Google can do for Asheville, but rather what Asheville can do for Google. What can Asheville do for Google? What does Asheville have? Bele Chere, mountains, AB-Tech, UNCA, an involved community, a forward looking city council, Hatch Fest, a strong medical industry, good food choices and retaurants, Greenlife, Earth Fare, a beautifull city,…

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