Friday, February 12, 2010

Reporter's Notebook

Paul Leonard can be reached at

Google, meet the ‘Couve

It was an announcement by a major Silicon Valley player that opened up the possibility of transforming the way we use the Internet forever.

No, we’re not referring to the debut last month of Apple’s unfortunately named iPad tablet device. Instead, it was Google’s relatively low-key release this week of an “experimental” plan to create an ultra high-speed broadband network in select trial locations across the U.S. that promised to have the greatest potential impact.

If Google’s initiative succeeds, the technology will transform the way we do business, communicate with each other and entertain ourselves.

And if we make a strong play for it now, Vancouver could be on the leading edge of this historic innovation.

In a rare move, Google announced plans to test the ultra high-speed network, not in Los Angeles, New York or Silicon Valley, but in small communities throughout the nation. The company even posted a call for proposals and nominations from local municipalities on its official blog, found here.

As reported by Seattle blogger Goldy this week, Pasco in the Tri-Cities region has already started working on its online application, which includes information requests relating to collaboration, community support, facilities and resources, construction methods and regulatory issues.

Given the potential benefits of the new service, the city of Vancouver has absolutely nothing to lose by devoting a few working hours to the cause of bringing Google into the Clark County fold. As one Just Business reader, Jake Engle of Wealth Planning Management, pointed out to me yesterday, Vancouver’s compact downtown is an ideal testing ground for the web search giant’s experimental broadband service.

And with zero risk, there’s still a lot to gain.

With county Class A office vacancy rates hovering around 19 percent, according to a January Market Report compiled by Eric Fuller and Associates, the prospect of Internet service 100 times faster than traditional broadband networks would provide a much-needed incentive for firms to relocate downtown.

And then there’s the prestige factor. Currently, Portland enjoys an outsized reputation for innovation and progressive thinking that draws talented engineering, programming and software designing firms from across the nation to the banks of the Willamette.

If we make a firm commitment to the job-creating industries of the future, Vancouver can also be on the shortlist of livable, affordable and tax-friendly destinations for the tech sector.

So let’s call, email and talk face-to-face with our city council members and Mayor Leavitt to place a bid on this potentially game-changing technology of the future, today.