What will Google Fiber say tomorrow, and what will it mean to us?

Google Fiber has invited guests to a big announcement tomorrow. The rest of us can watch it live on YouTube at 11 a.m. Sign up at https://fiber.google.com/savethedate/

Kansas City is buzzing over an announcement from Google Fiber that it will make a big announcement tomorrow. Google hasn’t announced what it will announce, but you can catch the event live on YouTube at 11 a.m. Google has also invited a group of neighborhood leaders to a meeting on Friday morning.

All we know for sure is that Google is wiring Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas to provide Internet connections to homes at speeds 100 times faster than high-speed broadband. Tomorrow is expected to be some type of kickoff, but it’s unclear whether that means some residents will begin getting the superfast service.

While we anticipate the announcement, it’s a good time to review some of what we’ve heard from local people who have studied the impact Google Fiber could have on Kansas City.

  • We’ll have to do things differently to take full advantage. The Mayors’  Bistate Innovation Team (MBIT), appointed by Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, Missouri, and Mayor Joe Reardon of Kansas City, Kansas, created a 40-page report based on input from neighborhoods, citizens and others. It cautions that we must be ready to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the high-speed Internet.
  • Google Fiber will only reach its fullest potential if the digital have-nots can take advantage of it. Among Midtown and urban core neighborhoods, the concern is that people without advanced technical skills or computers may not be able to benefit from the high-speed system, and that could actually intensify the digital divide. MBIT believes 20 percent of the population of the two Kansas Cities does not have Internet access. There have been suggestions that local wi-fi networks could fill in the spaces between the high-speed connections, ultimately “wiring” more people and decreasing the divide.
  • Creating high-speed nodes of business could spur economic development. Several reports have talked about the opportunity to create business and technology districts in areas such as the West Bottoms, the Crossroads, Rainbow Boulevard or downtown KCK. If that works, it could be a real boost to the areas that are chosen.
  • There’s the opportunity for urban core issues to be “under-served.” That’s one conclusion of the Urban Core committee of the Social Media Club of Kansas City. Its members said the central city has specific needs: access to jobs and training opportunities; access to the resources necessary to take advantage of the connections, such as fast computers; and life and economic skills training. These central city needs will compete with the needs of economic development, government, health care and other parts of the community. 
  • In addition to the business advantages, neighborhoods could benefit in multiple ways.  Neighborhood folks have brainstormed about using high-speed Internet to better connect them to police and city services; to enhance neighborhood communications with residents; and to connect residents with vital health services. The high-speed connections could also lead to interesting new clusters of startup businesses such as online gaming companies or totally new ways for artists to connect with audiences and with one another.

It’s worth reading these two reports that local residents have created to get a framework for what tomorrow’s announcement could mean.

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