[caption id="attachment_17537" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Google Fiber is spreading Gigabit Ethernet cross-country very, very slowly.[/caption] The next round of competition to decide which city will get cheap, fast Google Fiber has begun, according to a cheerfully oblique announcement from Google today. Google Fiber rollouts in Austin, Texas and Provo, Utah have both progressed to the point of actually signing up customers, which means Google is ready to consider what metro areas should be next on the list for an upgrade to a 21st century Internet infrastructure. The company has invited nine municipal areas, containing a total of 34 cities and towns, to apply, according to a Feb. 19 blog entry from Google Access Services VP Milo Medin. On the list of next potential Google Fiber cities: San Jose, Calif, Portland, Ore, Salt Lake City, Utah, Phoenix, Ariz., San Antonio, Texas, Nashville, Tenn., Atlanta, Ga., Charlotte, N.C. and Raleigh-Durham, N.C. Each city will be asked to cooperate on a "detailed study of local factors that could affect construction, like topography (e.g., hills, flood zones), housing density and the condition of local infrastructure," Medin wrote. Each will also be asked to handle a laundry-list of upgrades and improvements to help get the project up to speed. "They’ll provide us with maps of existing conduit, water, gas and electricity lines so that we can plan where to place fiber," Medin added. "They’ll also help us find ways to access existing infrastructure—like utility poles—so we don’t unnecessarily dig up streets or have to put up a new pole next to an existing one." Google Fiber is Google's less-quixotic-than-you'd-think effort to demonstrate the impact of genuinely fast, efficient Internet access on whole metro areas (and embarrass national telecom companies who have declined to upgrade their own networks or expand the small expanse of comparatively low-bandwidth fiber networks that already exist). Kansas City, Mo. was the first recipient of 1Gbit/sec fiberoptic Internet access in 2012, followed by Austin, Texas in late 2013. Residents of Provo, Utah got their first shot at Google Fiber in January of this year. There is still insufficient evidence to support Google's contention that it's possible to revive a city's economy and culture simply by wiring it with Gig Ethernet rather than whatever low-speed network infrastructure the local monopoly carrier believes would deliver the highest profit margin. But there is plenty of enthusiastically anecdotal support. It will take until at least the end of 2014 before Google actually decides which cities will win the current round of competition, but even being nominated will help each get ready for broadband upgrades they might decide to handle on their own, according to Google. "While we do want to bring Fiber to every one of these cities, it might not work out for everyone. But cities who go through this process with us will be more prepared for us or any provider who wants to build a fiber network," Medin wrote. In the meantime, Google offers expert tips on how to get a city ready for the Google Fiber competition, plus pointers and documentation from experts on municipal network infrastructure upgrades as part of its effort to promote Gigabit Communities as something more than isolated beneficiaries of the oversupplied cash reserves of the world's biggest Internet company.   Image: Google Fiber