Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Maybe it’s something about New England.

While communities around the country compete for Google’s attention with publicity stunts amid a larger competition to be a test site for ultrafast Internet, Cambridge has taken a sober, informative approach.

So has Boston, Jay Fitzgerald reported in Tuesday’s edition of the Boston Herald.

The mayor of a Minnesota city jumped into the icy cold winter waters of Lake Superior, in his literal attempt to make a splash for his community. A New York pol has even vowed to dive into a “toxic” polluted river to grab attention.

And the high-profile marketing stunts have kept on coming — except in Boston.

The Hub has produced a straight-forward, no-frills video, complete with city and community leaders wearing their proper business attire, pitching Boston as an “innovative” city with diverse neighborhoods, prestigious research centers and a top-notch Internet infrastructure.

The city’s video, and accompanying Facebook page, contains no pie-in-the-face antics by [Boston Mayor Tom] Menino and others. It just vows that Google won’t regret rolling out its experimental one-gigabit-per-second network in Boston.

Evangelia Souris, a Boston-based image consultant, said Menino’s buttoned-down marketing approach reflects the city. “That’s what we are,” said Souris of Boston’s proper ways.

Cambridge went even more bare bones. Not even a video or Facebook page.

Instead, the city’s bid — one of about 1,100 asking to be among the 50,000 to 500,000 people getting fiber-optic cable that moves data 100 times faster than usual — consisted of staff answering Google’s 27-page electronic questionnaire as comprehensively as possible and ensuring the company knows whom to contact with questions. Also included: Plenty of information, if not outright warnings, about city procedure on permitting and construction.

“Google is not going to come here and say, ‘We didn’t know that,’” said City Manager Robert W. Healy at an April 7 meeting of the City Council’s Cable TV, Telecommunications and Public Utilities Committee.

That sounded good enough to Leland Cheung, the councillor who asked Healy to submit an application and is a member of the committee.

“People talk about Topeka, but I would guess [Google] would appreciate more the fact that we have a very thorough application and that they know Cambridge is a very professionally run city that will work at their level of quality,” Cheung said. Topeka, Kan., notoriously changed its name to Google for a month in its bid to be a test site.

In the Herald article, Topeka Mayor Bill Bunten said of Menino, “Tell him to have fun. He’s too wound up.”

But Google’s Dan Martin is quoted as saying that “ultimately we’re not going to be looking at those [Topeka] type of initiatives. We’re going to be looking at how [communities] responded to our requests for proposals.”

The article also referred to efforts to “win free ultra-high-speed Internet from Google,” but Healy and city councillors are not expecting the offer to be free.

Beyond noting the citywide digging and roadwork that would be needed to install the cable infrastructure, work that could be massively disruptive and go on for months, members of the committee also wondered at dollar amounts for installation and subscription.

“I suspect until they know where they’re going to build and what the cost of the installation would be, they’re just on a pilot basis. Maybe [the company will have] an introductory, one-time-only offer with marginal increases and then have some experiments on what would be the going rate,” Healy said. “I don’t know what the cost per unit would be. I guess to get anyone to drop a [Comcast Cable] ‘three-pack’ it would have to be competitive.”

There are cynics who say Google is trying to draw publicity itself or persuade the government to speed the rollout of faster broadband Internet, but Healy said he takes the company’s plans at face value.