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Cities battle to lure Google

SAN JOSE, Calif. — They’re swilling Google-tinis in Sarasota, and vowing to Google-ize the names of their first-born children up in Duluth. Topeka has been temporarily rechristened Google, Kansas. And mayors throughout the realm are vying for the search giant’s favor, from sucking up to it on Twitter to jumping into icy Lake Superior in their shorts.

All this to convince Google to bring lightning-quick Internet access to their communities.

From Berkeley to Boca Raton, hundreds of cities have joined the high-tech stampede to be chosen as a host for Google’s grand fiber-optic experiment — the free installation of a network delivering Internet speeds 100 times faster than what most Americans have ever seen.

Spokane city officials also have shown interest, and last week invited residents to write letters or e-mails of support.

“The whole country is going goo-goo over Google,” says Josh Wallace with the city of Palo Alto, Calif., which, by the way, is also courting Google for a slice of the fiber pie. “If I were Google, I’d look very hard at Palo Alto. We’ve got a lot of Facebook employees living here and these engineers are crawling out of their skin to access this kind of network.”

Google, which naturally would benefit from faster search capabilities and the advertising that would bring, first dangled the red meat on Feb. 10. On a Web site conspicuously thin on detail, the Mountain View, Calif.-based Goliath announced it was “planning to build and test ultra-high speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the country. Our goal,” the statement said, “is to experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better, and faster for everyone.”

Google would pay for installation, running cable under or above ground to every business and home in a host community. It would be an “open access” network that service providers like phone and cable companies could piggyback on and then compete for customers.

It’s also a way to nudge the federal government to think big with its own national broadband plan, due to be unveiled this week.