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Monday, December 8, 2014

Kansas City's Google and Google's Kansas City, in the news

The story:


Although Google Fiber offers free Internet service (in exchange for a $300, one-time installation fee), it hasn’t done much to expand Internet access in Kansas City. A big part of the reason is that many poor people live in apartments and few landlords in poor areas have signed up for service. The green dots show apartments with Google Fiber in Kansas City. The darker areas have higher poverty rates. The red line is Troost Avenue,
Here, in the article, they have a terrific, detailed map of Kansas City showing where Google Fiber is, in what apartments and areas, with Troost as the dividing line.
Wiring a poor neighborhood for speed may be necessary to expand online access, but Kansas City's experience demonstrates it's not sufficient. Bringing more people online, at ever-faster speeds, will be somewhat harder and requires educating people one at a time on how to use computers and where to find access.

"The digital divide is not going to be closed digitally," said Michael Liimatta, president of Connecting for Good, a nonprofit working to expand online access in the Kansas City area.
Google has taken pains to reach out to a diverse section of Kansas City, running its fiber into low-income areas and sponsoring a "digital inclusion fund" to overcome gaps in connectivity. Its discount service – which offers modestly speedy connections at 5 megabits per second instead of its flagship "gigabit" service – seemed like it might broaden the web's reach to segments of the population yet to be connected.

Civic leaders and activists say it hasn't worked out that way, at least not yet.

survey commissioned this fall by The Wall Street Journal found that just 15 percent of residents in low-income areas of Kansas City subscribe to Google Fiber, and just 5 percent are using the discount option. By comparison, more than half the homes in upper-income neighborhoods were taking Google Fiber.

It should be no surprise, really, I don't think. In the first place, it's a huge job, connecting all these people, this city. And then to try to be fair to a group, the poor, scattered all over the city? It's daunting, at least. Google doesn't exist as a charity, as a non-profit. It seems Google has made and is trying to make a good faith effort to bring truly high speed internet to those with less. I say again, hese results shouldn't be a big surprise. I give them credit for trying, first, but for more than just trying. They committed. They've done at least some of this getting the internet out to the less economicallly gifted.

It's a lot more than AT&T is doing or has ever done.

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