Google sparked a competition among local governments in the market for high-end technology when the company announced Wednesday, Feb. 10, it would select a small number of American cities or counties in which to deploy experimental fiber-to-the-home networks with speeds over 1 gigabit per second.

That's 100 times faster than what most Americans receive, according to Google, which seeks requests for information (RFI) from interested local governments by March 26. "We'll offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people," Google said in a blog post.

The networks will function as testing sites for determining what applications developers can concoct with ultra-high bandwidth. Additionally the company said it would test new ways to build broadband networks and promised to share its findings with the rest of the industry.

The networks will be open to several service providers, meaning that competing vendors -- like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon -- could theoretically play a role in the networks.

Municipal broadband analyst Craig Settles expects the move to be a game-changer in terms of national expectations of broadband speeds.

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Andy Opsahl  | 

Andy Opsahl is a former writer and features editor for Government Technology magazine.