Solutions for the Google Fiber Digital Divide for libraries and schools

At a meeting at the Westport Library last Thursday, Friends of the Library board chair Tom Platt said his group is pushing neighborhoods to sign up for Google Fiber so libraries will receive the service as well.

The president of Friends of the Library says the best way to ensure all Kansas City libraries get Google Fiber is to rally the neighborhoods surrounding them to get residents signed up. Tom Platt says 8 of the 10 branches of the Kansas City Public Library are located in areas where Google Fiber will be available, but so far only three of the neighborhoods around the libraries have pre-qualified for the service. The Friends of the Library is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the library through outreach and advocacy efforts.

Google is making its ultra-high-speed Internet service available in fiberhoods, sections of neighborhoods it has designated as service areas. A certain percentage of residents in each fiberhood must pre-register for the service or Google won’t guarantee it will wire that area. Libraries can get the service only if the fiberhood around them qualifies. That’s led some to ask Google to loosen its requirements to ensure libraries and schools will be guaranteed to qualify. But Platt says rather than asking Google to change its ground rules, he’s proposing that Friends of the Library and neighborhoods make an extra push to get those areas around libraries pre-registered.

When a neighborhood gets enough registrations, the map of the Google Fiber webpage shows that neighborhood as green. That’s led to a new term around town: “going green” means a fiberhood has reached its pre-registration goal.

“I’m pushing for all neighborhoods to become green. It helps the libraries, it helps the schools, and it helps the neighborhoods,” Platt says.

Platt says the Westport Library is guaranteed to be wired because its fiberhood has pre-qualified. The Waldo and Ruiz Libraries are also in pre-qualified fiberhoods. However, he says, the Plaza and Downtown libraries are having more trouble making the pre-qualification numbers because of multiple apartments buildings in those areas. Google has admitted to having some problems figuring out how to pre-register residents of multiple units, but says it is working on the problem.

Mary Sanchez of the Kansas City Star recently wrote about an effort led by the Social Media Club of Kansas City that asks individuals to make a monetary contribution to ensure areas around schools and libraries pre-qualify.

Clearly there’s a lot of interest around town in dealing with these important issues as Google Fiber’s rollout continues. What do you think is the best approach?