November 19, 2014

Successful Gigabit Campaign Brings Blazing Internet Service to Kansas City Libraries

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Google’s entry into the Internet provider business in Kansas City, KS, and Kansas City, MO, is moving ahead, thanks to a last-minute rally by community groups earlier this month that will enable about 89 percent of both cities to access the service – including many public libraries and schools.

The cities were chosen by Google in the spring of 2011 to be the installation sites for a new high speed fiber optic network, which allows Internet users to download and upload files at up to 1 gigabit per second. As part of the deal, Google agreed to provide free high speed Internet access to about 400 public buildings selected by the city mayors if a certain percentage of residents in surrounding neighborhoods showed interest in the service and paid a $10 pre-registration fee.

Registration started in July with Google Fiber offering one-year packages of $70 a month for high speed Internet, $120 a month for TV and Internet, and a $300 package for regular Internet service for up to seven years.

A total of 180 out of 202 neighborhoods qualified for service by the September 9 pre-registration deadline, according to the Kansas City Star and the Google fiber blog. Google Fiber service will start to roll out in Kansas City, KS, in October while Kansas City, MO, neighborhoods will start hook ups next spring, according to the Google blog.

In Kansas City, KS, four out of five public libraries, 33 elementary schools, eight middle schools, and five high school libraries will be connected to Google Fiber, Carol Levers, the Kansas City, KS, Public Library director, wrote in an email.  All of the neighborhoods served by these libraries and schools met their signup goals as well, she wrote.

The library is excited about conversations that community leaders and community-based organizations will be having with Google regarding digital literacy and connectivity, Levers said in her email. There are also plans to expand the library’s digital programs and enhance interaction with other libraries by using the new service. Last fall, the library launched the K-20 Librarian Initiative, a consortium of several public, academic and school libraries working to make the Internet more accessible and share educational and cultural programs.

Library officials notified vendors about the future fiber hookup to get potential cost estimates for connection to buildings, and they are being careful in making commitments pending more information from Google, Levers wrote.

In Kansas City, MO, all eight of the public libraries within the city limits will be connected as well, according to Cheptoo Kositany, the library’s deputy director.

 

Potential gigabit projects

The library already has plans to utilize the additional bandwidth for projects including a crowd-sourced photo or video album about the city’s historical neighborhoods, said Jason Harper, the library’s web content developer.

Google will waive construction fees to install the service at the Kansas City, KS, while in Kansas City, MO, the library will pay for the cost of construction to their building, but will then get monthly service for free, Google spokeswoman Jenna Wandres told LJ.

The remaining 22 neighborhoods that did not meet Google’s sign-up requirements were in the poorer of areas of Kansas City, MO, east of Troost Avenue, according to the Kansas City Star and the Google Fiber map.

However, these neighborhoods can qualify for future registration rallies, Wandres wrote.

Google workers did extensive outreach to neighborhoods in both Kansas City, KS and MO, by holding many community talks, attending local events, and even handing out ice cream, according to the blog and Kansas City Star.

There was also a major grassroots effort led by Kansas City community groups and other local volunteers to get many residents as possible involved in the Google Fiber project during the six-week pre-registration rally.

The Social Media Club of Kansas City organized an online campaign that raised $11,000 to help many low-income residents afford the Google Fiber pre-registration deposits. Club members also went door-to-door to get residents to sign up.

The Friends of the Library in Kansas City, MO, donated $1,000 to cover the costs of pre-registrations for about 100 households in the Bluford and Southeast neighborhoods, Kositany said.

Connecting for Good, a local non-profit focused on bridging the digital divide, also campaigned in low-income of Kansas City, MO, according to Wired.com.

There is a separate effort in the works to connect low-income Kansas City, MO, residents and senior citizens to the gigabit Internet.

OneLouder, a Kansas City, MO, mobile app and advertisement developer, won a $10,000 prize from American City Business Journal’s Social Madness Contest and is donating the funds to Connecting for Good.

The money will be used to create a mobile computer lab that can provide free training in key community locations such as the library, and constructing permanent E-community centers, said Michael Liimatta, a co-founder of Connecting for Good. The first E-community center would to be built at the Rosedale Ridge housing complex in conjunction with the Kansas City Urban Youth Center.

“We’re (hoping to) attract people who have never put their fingers on a keyboard before to experience this thing,” he said.

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