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Group rallies for Spokane to be Google test site

Efforts to woo lightning-quick Internet access to Spokane culminated Wednesday with a gathering staged for the search-engine giant Google.

“Hey, Google!” the group of about 70 yelled in unison. “Pick Spokane!”

The city is in a feverish push to promote itself as a worthy host for Google’s Fiber for Communities project – the free installation of a network delivering Internet speeds 100 times faster than most people have experienced. Applications are due Friday.

Supporters of a Facebook page promoting Spokane as a host site organized Wednesday’s gathering to show the grass-roots enthusiasm surrounding the efforts of city officials.

Cities across the country have joined in. Topeka, Kan., has been temporarily renamed Google.

But that doesn’t compare to widespread support from the citizens of Spokane, supporters said.

“You can change a name – you can’t change the heartfelt feelings of the people,” said Marianne Guenther, a Spokane Realtor. “To show that you have grass roots, there’s nothing better than that.”

Google would pay for installation to every business and home in a host community. People at Wednesday’s gathering spoke of the benefits faster and widespread Internet access would bring to education, technology and business.

“It could really help bring innovative companies to Spokane,” said marketing consultant William Myrhang, who joined his wife and two children at the gathering that included a photo and video shoot.

And for the companies already here, a faster Internet connection could do wonders for their online revenue, said Ed Reese, a principal with Sixth Man Marketing. Reese recently helped a customer cut his Web site’s load time in half.

Since then, sales through the site have shot way up, he said.

“It could mean millions almost immediately for local businesses because (customers) are not frustrated that the Web site is so slow,” Reese said.

Nicole Hensley said she helped organize the rally through the Facebook page “Hey Google, Pick Spokane.” More than 6,000 people have become fans of the page. Some have posted photos of people holding “Hey Google, Pick Spokane” signs at city landmarks.

Meanwhile, city officials have compiled information on hosting capabilities and technological issues such as power line availability, and Mayor Mary Verner touts the city in a video posted on the city’s Web site.

“The rest of it is what I like to call the sparkle of the résumé,” said city spokeswoman Marlene Feist. “You just want to glam it up any way you can.”



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