Image: Topeka Google Fiber video
Helen Popkin
updated 4/2/2010 8:56:21 AM ET 2010-04-02T12:56:21

When Google announced its fiber-optic experiment last month — a network that would deliver Internet 100 times faster than today’s high speed — it didn’t ask for anything crazy. For communities and individuals interested in becoming one of the 50,000, up to potentially 500,000 people chosen to receive Internet-capable streaming 3-D medical images or downloading movies within minutes, the search engine behemoth posted a simple RFI (Request for Information).

Nowhere in Google’s questionnaire on area infrastructure did the company request YouTube videos cataloging just how zany a town can be. But that’s what Google got — a veritable film festival revealing the many ways a municipality could prostrate itself before the Great and Powerful Oz. Entries ranged from freaky to unfathomable — with a whole lot of “um, what?” in between. Not all of the 1,100-plus communities included an entry in what history will call the “Google Fiber WTF Film Festival.” Those who did include videos offer a glimpse of just how clueless community leaders are about the Internet. (Google will announce its decision near the end of the year.) Here’s a review of just a few:

Creepy poodles from Topeka
This entry for the town of Topeka, Kan. totally confuses the perennially-popular “cute animal” Internet meme with … um … creepy creepy bad bad things. Topeka is also the town that changed its name to “Google” in an effort to win its new namesake’s favor. (Topeka also totally went on a no-carb diet when its boyfriend said it looked fat in those jeans.) In turn, Google gave the town an April Fool’s shout out by changing its name (on the home page anyway) to “Topeka” for the day.

As far as pranks go, “Wizard of Oz,” as reenacted by poodles, does project a Hitchcockian foreboding … like one of those Internet gags where you’re tricked into staring complacently at a computer screen for a minute or two and then a scary alien head pops up or something — except the alien head never pops up. And that may be the scariest part of all.

Duluth overkill
In a display of good-natured smack talk (or something), Duluth, Minn. attempted to see Topeka and raise the stakes by allegedly changing the name of every Duluthian first born to “Google Fiber” or "Googlette Fiber," gender depending.

This proclamation was issued at an “official press conference” with Duluth’s “mayor,” who was actually not the mayor and nobody’s name was actually changed — first born or otherwise. We know this is because the video of this community satire opens with real mayor Don Ness assuring Topeka that “the skit is intended in the spirit of good-natured competition between cities.”

To quote Woody Allen, “If it bends, it’s funny.” Why such clumsy comedy when Duluth has a ringer in its court — Sen. Al Franken? In a fortunate bit of serendipity, the former full-time comedian cropped old footage of his “Duluth Answer Man” character to buoy his video bid to bring Google Fiber to the town. Despite this quality entry, it’s Duluth Mayor Ness’ plunge into icy Lake Superior that received the most press. 

I like to imagine old timey Google ruler tossing aside stacks of RFIs and announcing, “By gumb! That’s just the moxie we’re looking for!”

“Swimming” with sharks
At least Duluth’s mayor was willing to risk hypothermia. Sarasota, Fla. mayor Dick Clapp wore a full-body wetsuit when he “risked” swimming with “sharks” to win wicked fast Internet for his town.

Certainly Mayor Clapp deserves kudos for surviving his name through high school and beating the moniker odds to actually become mayor. But does his town deserve Google Fiber?

Unlike the Duluth mayor, Mayor Clapp never actually “swims” in Sarasota’s video submission. He’s actually “walking” in an aquarium tank filled with bonnet sharks — the Justin Beibers of the shark kingdom. No danger whatsoever.

The biggest threat risked by Mayor Clapp is the possibility that his figure, encased in a less-than-flattering wetsuit, might end up you YouTube for all to … oops!

Too long, did not watch
Fresno, Calif.’s polished Google Fiber presentation utilizes the film technique known as “old white people do things in rap form to get the kids to pay attention.” The entry begins promisingly, with a video collage of Fresno citizens using creative ways to hold signs stating, “I want my Google Fiber.”

Coincidentally, these are the lyrics — the only lyrics — scoring the video, delivered in a flow one might describe as an emasculated Slim Shady.

The film then moves into scenes of all that Fresno has to offer, intercut with Sahara-dry segments of Mayor Ashley Swearengin and other Fresno grownups delineating all that Google Fiber will offer Fresno, and all Fresno has to offer for Google Fiber — probably all the stuff from Google’s RFI.

No spoiler alert here though. I fell asleep.

The string is a metaphor
You know that video Michael Scott made for Dunder Mifflin on the “The Office”?

It’s the one where a single piece of paper is passed between people, as portrayed by Dunder Mifflin employees, to show the importance of paper in bringing people together and whatnot.

In one scene, Dwight shows up at Phyllis’ door holding up a piece of paper that reads, “You have a son and it’s me.” Bellingham, Wash.’s video is just like that, except with red yarn instead of paper. And funnier.

Please see “Wikipedia”
Obviously, Columbia, Mo. needs a means to learn basic things such as “Flash Mobs” and other stuff that was hot circa Y2K.

Columbia’s entry features a video shot during a basketball game where attendees wore yellow shirts, stood up in an orderly manner and waved the signs they were given that read “Google Fiber.” Then, one might surmise, everyone sat down and enjoyed the game. It's titled “Google Fiber Flash Mob.”

Here’s the thing: Distributing printed Google Fiber signs to a bunch of people who paid to see a sporting event they were going to be there for anyway is not a “Flash Mob.” These people need faster Internet and they need it now. 

Helen A.S. Popkin hopes every town gets Google Fiber. Citizens can then friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter that much faster!

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