Google Picks Kansas City To Wire With Fiber. What's Next?


After much anticipation, Google has announced who it's going to wire with gigabit fiber: Kansas City, KS.

A city of 150,000 smack dab in the middle of America, it makes a lot of sense as a destination because of its centrality, its size, the presence of the Kauffman Foundation next door and involvement with this project, the fact that it's a city that could use some help and therefore that should be able to show clear gains once the fiber's in place, and of course there's the barbecue, which growing up with a dad from Kansas I can attest is fantastic.

Google made this announcement with little pomp and circumstance, simply putting up a blog post with a well-produced video featuring comments from Google and local stakeholders. Given the number of people involved with making that video it's impressive they were able to keep this new under wraps as I totally agree with the statement made in that video that this is just about the biggest thing to ever happen to Kansas City.

But even more than where they've chosen to build and what they're doing now, I'm interested in what's going to happen next.

During the initial announcement of this program and subsequent analysis I and many others were under the impression that Google was most likely going to deploy to multiple smaller cities rather than one big city. Given that the top-end of their goal was to potentially reach up to 500,000 people, Kansas City only accounts for a fraction of that.

Yet there's some disconnect in how to read Google's intentions within this blog post and video. In the post they write: "After a careful review, today we're very happy to announce that we will build our ultra high-speed network in Kansas City, Kansas." And later: "In selecting a city, our goal was to find a location where..."

This language implies singular to me. Yet in the video that accompanies this post Sergey Brin, Google's co-founder and president, says, "That's why we're rolling out to communities starting with Kansas City..."

The reason this distinction matters is twofold. First, are other communities that applied to Google Fiber out of luck or are they still in the running? But secondly and perhaps even more significantly, what are Google's ultimate intentions with this initiative?

As I've asked previously in this blog, do they want to build a fiber network or two, or do they want to be the catalyst for getting all of America wired with fiber?

The answer to this question defines what the best approach is for Google moving forward.

In particular, now that they've chosen a city it's likely that they'll start to face questions from the suburbs surrounding Kansas City about how the network can be extended to serve them. And I have no doubt Kansas City, MO is more than a little concerned about its little brother getting all this attention.

Another way to think about this is is Google building another island of connectivity that will stop at the city limits? If so, then what does that mean for something as basic as education, where students who live in the city may attend school outside of it and vice versa?

Or is Google using this Kansas City network as a seed they're planting to set the roots for a foundation that can grow to bring fiber to as many Americans as possible?

I bring these queries up not to question Google's actions or intentions but to help clarify everyone's thinking about the intent of this truly terrific endeavor.

While I can see a lot of value in taking the more limited approach of building a city or two and focusing on deploying working networks and testbeds, I also see a ton of opportunity to leverage this gift that Google's giving America into something that can keep giving and truly shift our country's telecommunications paradigm for generations to come.

No matter what the answers to these questions, Google should be commended for its vision and its commitment to investing in our country's capacity to continue achieving great things in the 21st century.

Congratulations to Kansas City, KS for the win. We in Lafayette, LA welcome you to the Fiber Nation and look forward to working with you and Google to develop the next generation of the Internet.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Geoff Daily published on March 30, 2011 1:11 PM.

Introducing Daily's Hierarchy Of Broadband Needs was the previous entry in this blog.

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