March 10, 2010

Udall Asks Google to Think Big in Farmington

Senator Writes CEO in Support of San Juan County Application

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Tom Udall, D-N.M., has written Google's CEO Eric Schmidt in support of Think BIG Farmington's proposal to become a test site for the company's experimental project for ultra-high speed broadband internet networks in select locations across the country.

The project, called Google Fiber for Communities, will test new ways to make broadband internet connections faster and more accessible.

In his letter, Udall highlights Farmington's collaborative effort to win participation in the company's experiment and the benefits to San Juan County and parts of the Navajo Nation. He also notes the project's potential to spur new economic growth, distance learning and telemedicine initiatives which would greatly benefit the region.

"Although Google will receive applications from across the country," wrote Udall, "I believe Farmington is a perfect place for a trial fiber optic network. Think BIG Farmington's application is a community-wide effort that that would include towns and rural areas of San Juan county and part of the Navajo Nation in northwestern New Mexico."

The senator also recalls a visit by former President Clinton to the Navajo Nation in 2000, which he attended. During the visit, President Clinton was introduced to a 13-year-old Navajo named Myra Jodie who had won an iMac computer but lacked a home phone connection and the capability to connect it to the internet.

Today, much of the area still lacks basic and essential services like electricity, water and telephones.

"The Navajo Nation still has some of the lowest telephone and Internet access in the country," Udall wrote. "The ultra high speed communications network proposed by Think BIG Farmington would help ensure that northwest New Mexico is finally connected."

Udall is a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and a strong proponent of increasing broadband infrastructure and access. He has urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to expand internet capabilities - especially in rural and tribal areas - through its upcoming National Broadband Plan to grow economic and educational opportunities.

It's estimated that New Mexico's broadband connectivity is approximately 15 percent slower than the national average.

According to the Kauffman Foundation, the state also ranks 46th in percentage of Internet users.

Below is the full text of Udall's letter.

 

March 10, 2010

Mr. Eric Schmidt
Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043

Dear Mr. Schmidt:

I am writing in support of Think BIG Farmington's proposal to become a test site for the Google Fiber for Communities project. This letter follows the nomination for Farmington, New Mexico that I submitted through Google's website.

Although Google will receive applications from across the country, I believe Farmington is a perfect place for a trial fiber optic network. Think BIG Farmington's application is a community-wide effort that that would include towns and rural areas of San Juan county and part of the Navajo Nation in northwestern New Mexico. In earlier eras, networks that connected the country with transcontinental railroads, interstate highways, and international airports all bypassed the Four Corners region.

When President Clinton visited northwest New Mexico in 2000, he was introduced by a bright Navajo girl who had won a computer. Yet she could not connect her new computer to the Internet. In fact, her family could not even get a telephone line to their home. The Navajo Nation still has some of the lowest telephone and Internet access in the country. The ultra high speed communications network proposed by Think BIG Farmington would help ensure that northwest New Mexico is finally connected.

A gigabit speed Internet network would create new possibilities for economic growth, distance learning, and telemedicine. Exciting Internet services already exist in each of these areas. I believe deploying a trial fiber optic network in northwest New Mexico would lead to even more creative applications, services, and innovations that could be shared elsewhere.

Farmington owns its electric utility and already has dark fiber and other infrastructure that could be used to support the Google Fiber for Communities project. Given these assets and broad community support for proposal, I think Google would find Think BIG Farmington an excellent partner in exploring new ways to help make Internet access better, and faster for everyone.

Finally, I want to commend Google for its "Think Big with a Gig" initiative. The United States once led the world in Internet penetration but now ranks fifteenth among developed countries. As a nation, we must do more to ensure that high speed Internet access is available for all.

Thank you for your full consideration of Think BIG Farmington's proposal.

Sincerely,
Tom Udall

United States Senator