detroitDavid Coursey, of PC World argued quite eloquently that Google should take its billion dollar network operations experiment to one of the most miserable cities in America, not one of the happiest.

Citing the Forbes report of the ten most miserable cities in America, Coursey recommends Cleveland Ohio, Stockton California, Memphis Tennessee and Detroit Michigan should be the target of Google’s investment to showcase the impact of ultra-fast IP networks. Forbes’ report focused on scoring the 250 ccities with over 450,000 population with high unemployment, high taxes, lousy weather, corruption by public officials and crummy sports teams.

As much as Coursey’s argument makes sense as a do-good argument, it is possible that these cities may not be ready for Google. I would think that Google’s experiment will require a metropolitan area with the existing economic infrastructure to buy its products and services at some price and a ready population of software developers, business entrepreneurs and customers educated in software and online businesses. Cities with failing education systems, corrupt public officials, high taxes and collective bargaining mentalities of entitled arrogance are a recipe for failure. It will reward these failing metropolis’ with investment, something they are obviously not ready to encourage (taxes are too high and costs of doing business are too high).

Now, if the goal was enlightened benevolence or welfare capitalism, fine, Cleveland meet Google. On the other hand, if the goal is to see how things change as a result of a billion dollar investment in network infrastructure then a better city might in fact be Duluth Minnesota or Amarillo Texas. Using Coursey’s logic, maybe taking the investment to Haiti might be a better, but obviously less practical option. From my viewpoint, companies as agents of social change are too radical an idea because they distort what should be the simple and motivations of the firms’ managers: manage the firm to maximize profit. City-wide experiments can be part of that, particularly because the revelations from the experiment need scale and can take years to realize. Welfare projects can not.

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