Topeka, Kan., changed its name to Google for a month. The mayor of Duluth, Minn., took an icy plunge in Lake Superior. Both stunts were done in the name of winning Google's attention.
Now Modesto is trying its own publicity ploy in the hopes that Google will pick the city as a test site for ultrahigh-speed Internet service.
Three groups of Modesto residents will make a collective three-day, 96-mile pilgrimage to Mountain View starting Saturday.
They want to deliver a twofold message, said Mike Daniel, one of the trek's organizers. One is Modesto's proximity to Mountain View, which Daniel says gives Modesto an edge over other cities in the competition. The other is community spirit.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"This is so much more than changing the name of a city, this is about the community coming together and showing their civic pride, and we strongly believe Google is looking for that from a community that they want to work with," Daniel said.
Spokesman Dan Martin said Google has been excited to see the enthusiasm from cities. "I think that it really reflects the fact that there's a hunger across the country for better and faster Internet access," Martin said.
Google will provide Internet that's 100 times faster than most people are used to in the winning cities. It won't be free; residents will have to pay for the service. The company wants to provide the experimental service to as many as 500,000 people across the country.
Community spirit helps, but Google is most interested in cities that can help it build a fiber-optic network quickly and efficiently, with a minimum of bureaucratic hurdles, Martin said.
"We're not asking for special treatment, but it would be easier if there wasn't a multilayered approval process and six or seven regulatory bodies in the area," Martin said.
The city's information technology department will submit an application that addresses those concerns. It's due March 26. Individuals also can nominate Modesto.
Rally on 10th Street
The pilgrimage starts Saturday morning with a rally in front of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th St.
Participants, including some City Council members, will walk 19 miles to Patterson wearing T-shirts in Google colors. A bus will take them back to Modesto.
On the second day, bicyclists will travel 52 miles from Del Puerto Canyon to San Jose.
On Monday (not Tuesday, as earlier reported), a team of runners will run 26.2 miles, a full marathon, from San Jose to Mountain View. People who want to participate without breaking a sweat can ride in free buses Storer Transportation is providing for the event.
The runners will deliver a baton with Modesto's ceremonial application inside. However, the real application will be submitted online.
On the Net:
For more information about the trek by Modestans, visit www.googlepilgrimage.com.