The promise of being the test market for an ultra-fast broadband network has some Peorians in an online frenzy. Now that Google Inc., the Mountain View, Calif.-based search company, has announced that the search is on for cities to take on the new fiber-optic project, efforts are under way to roll out a cyber-welcome mat in Peoria.

The promise of being the test market for an ultra-fast broadband network has some Peorians in an online frenzy.


Now that Google Inc., the Mountain View, Calif.-based search company, has announced that the search is on for cities to take on the new fiber-optic project, efforts are under way to roll out a cyber-welcome mat in Peoria.


Google announced last week that it plans to build a handful of experimental networks around the country to connect consumers to the Internet, allowing for faster delivery of online video and other advanced applications the search company wants to deliver.


How fast is it? Google said the new system would be "many times as fast" as the DSL, cable and fiber-optic networks that connect most U.S. homes to the Internet today, at speeds typically ranging from 3 megabits to 20 megabits per second.


The Google project excites city leaders.


"We are putting together an application," said Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis. "Access to high-speed data is the most important infrastructure in the 21st century. Our research indicates there are over 1,200 employers that would benefit from this technology immediately and over 13,000 small businesses that would benefit from this in the next few years."


Peoria City Manager Scott Moore said the network could help Peoria market itself better, adding that the city would take a "regional approach" in applying to become a test market for the network.


Other city wheels also are beginning to move on the Google proposal.


"We've just started running with it," said Renee Charles, spokeswoman for the Heartland Partnership. "We feel Peoria could be an ideal test market for the Google program. The infrastructure is in place here. We think we're tech-ready for this concept."


Tim Couillard, an Internet marketer who lives in Peoria and maintains an office in Peoria Heights, said he established a Facebook page in an effort to bring Google fiber to Peoria.


"We've already got 157 fans for it and I just put it up on Tuesday," he said.


"The whole 'how it plays in Peoria' thing is a slam-dunk marketing campaign for Google.


"I see this as a grass-roots campaign for the community."


A Google spokesman said the company isn't looking to compete head-to-head with the phone and cable TV companies that dominate the U.S. broadband business.


Verizon Communications, one of those telecoms now providing broadband service in U.S. cities, said the Google network will mark "another new paragraph in this exciting story" of broadband growth. Verizon has been building a super-fast fiber-optic network, called FiOS, that offers speeds of up to 50 megabits per second and has run a field test experimenting with speeds of up to 10 gigabits - 10 times what Google is proposing.


Google said it is too soon to say how much the networks will cost to build. But the company said it is prepared to sell access directly to consumers at prices competitive with existing broadband services and would consider letting Internet service providers or local governments sell their own services over the Google network. 


Steve Tarter can be reached at (309) 686-3260 or starter@pjstar.com.