Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon pursue high-speed Internet

Credit: Molly Swartz/Art Staff Credit: Molly Swartz/Art Staff

On Feb. 10, web giant Google outlined its plans to offer ultra-high-speed broadband Internet services to a select few locations across the nation. The communities Google selects will be “testbed” communities that serve to demonstrate the benefits of faster broadband access.

The Internet service is predicted to operate at speeds of 1 gigabit per second. Google’s fiber-optic initiative is said to be more than 100 times faster than the speeds available to consumers today. The company has confirmed that it will pay for the construction and operation of the services and will charge customers prices competitive to current services.
Two days later, on Feb. 12, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced his ambition for the city of Pittsburgh to be selected as one of these “testbed” communities.

Soon after, Carnegie Mellon also declared its intent to assist the city in its endeavor.

Last week, President Jared L. Cohon stated in a press release that “[Carnegie Mellon and the city of Pittsburgh] are excited that Google plans to deploy ultra-high-speed networks in locations around the country.... As a leader in innovative broadband networking, Carnegie Mellon is pleased to partner with Mayor Ravenstahl, the City of Pittsburgh, UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh, and other community institutions and businesses to bring one of these networks to our community.”

Support from important businesses and institutions will also go a long way in contributing to the city’s bid. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, a recognized leader in advanced health care technology, has recently identified itself as one such supporter. The University of Pittsburgh has also declared an interest in partnering in this effort.

In order for the city to be chosen, it is crucial that it garner community support for the project. First-year CIT student Benjamin Wasserman is one of a growing number of individuals who support the city’s pursuit of Google’s new service.

“The city is in a state of growth. Pittsburgh is symbolic of development and modernization, and the fact that the G-20 was here last year shows that ... super-high-speed broadband would only develop the city even more,” Wasserman said.

David Sandor, a first-year economics major, shares Wasserman’s excitement for faster web services.

“I say go for it. If [Carnegie Mellon] can help the city bring Google’s services here and it turns out to be successful, I am sure it will strengthen the university’s reputation as a technological center,” said Wasserman.

Tim Hoffman, a professor in the school of computer science believes that Pittsburgh’s prusuit of the new broadband service will provide benefits to the city as a whole, echoing the thoughts of both president Cohon and Wasserman. “It can only be good for the city,” he said. “It provides more jobs and creates an incentive for Google to stay in Pittsburgh.”

Hoffman was, however, also quick to question the proposal. “On the other hand, I don’t know if Google is asking anything in return. The company may ask for a tax break or rebate.”

Despite doubts, Hoffman hopes that Carnegie Mellon students could contribute to the designation process because of their “willingness to participate.”

If Google were to select Pittsburgh for their project, Hoffman did not doubtthat the company could find helpful “CMU students who [would] volunteer to use the service.”

Whether Google ultimately selects Pittsburgh is yet to be seen, but if Google’s decision process is purely based on enthusiasm, it does not need to look past this city.