Google Fiber application deadline approaches for nonprofits

Trevor Heise

Google Fiber is not (only) in Kansas, anymore; the zippy new high-bandwidth Internet service is coming to Austin.

Following the spring announcement of plans to expand Fiber to Austin, Google and the city of Austin have collaborated to offer eligible public and nonprofit facilities the opportunity to apply for 10 years of free, Google Fiber high-speed Internet through 2023.

The application deadline for nonprofits to apply for free Fiber is Sept. 30, though no applications have been filed thus far, according to John Speirs, program coordinator for Austin’s Telecommunications and Regulatory Affairs Office. But “based on past experience” with similar initiatives, his department is expecting a flood of applications as the deadline approaches. 

Google Fiber, with its advertised hundred-times-faster connection speeds, is set to arrive in Austin in mid-2014.

“It’s just the start for Austin as we step up our efforts at digital inclusion,” Speirs said. “It’s about using technology to improve lives, to help people find jobs, help the disabled, to help people develop social skills.”

The city’s Office of Telecommunications and Regulatory Affairs will review applications and provide a list to the City Council of Austin, which will work with Google to create “fiberhoods” that provide coverage to selected applicants.

Recipient nonprofit organizations will be chosen based on criteria involving community participation and the opportunities they offer for future technological innovation.

The city is keen to push Google Fiber to a demographically and geographically diverse consumer base, following criticisms that the Kansas City pilot program was inaccessible to the majority of people.

At the early-August Community Engagement session, a wide range of organizations showed up to express their interest in the plan — ranging from the Lower Colorado River Assembly and the Austin Film Society to various organizations representing the disabled, education nonprofits, and health care providers. 

Joe Faulk, manager of information systems and business enterprise at Austin Public Library, says his institution is preparing to file an application. 

“We have multiple nodes through which users connect so we can fill up capacity fairly quickly,” Faulk said. 

The library sees Fiber as a promising new opportunity to cut costs and position itself for an increasingly digitally-dependent era.

Computer science junior Hector Cantu said he thought Google Fiber would create more opportunities in the fields of medicine, graphics and Internet communication.

“Google’s bringing Fiber to Austin? That’s unexpected … but awesome,” Canta said. “I think this opens the door for a lot of new people to access tools for innovation otherwise beyond their reach.”