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February 11, 2010

Our View: Hey, Google, pick Merced for Internet test

Dear Google,

You announced Wednesday that you're looking for a few good communities to roll out ultra-high-speed Internet access.

You said that you're planning to build and test broadband networks that would deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most people currently have access to -- the experimental fiber network would allow users to download a high-definition, full-length movie in less than five minutes.

Since you're taking nominations for potential trial locations, please, choose Merced.

Located in the center of the rural Central Valley, our city of about 80,000 people would do well to highlight many of the potential new uses of broadband networks.

You told readers to imagine sitting in a rural health clinic, streaming three-dimensional medical imaging over the Web and discussing a unique condition with a specialist in New York. We can imagine it.

In fact, a version of that is already happening here. UC Merced, the University of California's newest campus, has developed a telemedicine program for rural communities that could be expanded using your technology.

UC Merced is already using high-speed video conferencing connections and specialized video equipment to connect to outside specialists. The program began with the development of six sites around the Valley: Atwater, Greeley Hill, Reedley, Kerman, Bakersfield and French Camp.

These sites have received high-speed connections, equipment and training and are now developing their individual programs. Their efforts to offer their local communities medical access and health education could be underscored with Google's help.

UC Merced could also take advantage of universal, ultra-high-speed Internet access as it develops a new kind of medical school that would create home-grown doctors in an area where residents now have limited medical access.

The UC Merced School of Medicine plans to use existing hospitals and health clinics in the San Joaquin Valley to give its students clinical training.

UC Merced hopes to reduce costs and complement its own faculty by having experts from other UC medical schools rotate through its program and teach classes from afar using new technologies.

Google, you can help make this happen.

But higher education isn't the only area that could benefit from the new technology.

Merced County is among the poorest areas in the state, hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis and high in unemployment.

We need jobs -- the kind that can support the families living here. Just imagine what economic avenues could be opened if it was easier for people to live here, where housing is relatively inexpensive, and telecommute to higher-paying jobs in the Bay Area, Southern California, Sacramento or beyond.

Merced is also a stop on California's planned high-speed rail system, which will create a direct connection with Southern California and the Bay Area. It seems that your high-speed Internet offerings could be the digital equivalent, connecting via ultra-high-speed Internet this rural Valley town to the rest of the world.

We know there are other applications. That's why we're encouraging our readers to join us to "think big with a gig" and nominate Merced for Google's experimental fiber network.


The Sun-Star Editorial Board

Editorials are the opinion of the Merced Sun-Star editorial board. Members of the editorial board include Publisher Debra Kuykendall, Executive Editor Mike Tharp, Editorial Page Editor Keith Jones, Copy Desk Chief Jesse Chenault and Online Editor Brandon Bowers.

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