The digital divide. I had never really given much thought to this concept before Google began marketing for their fiber-optic super speed internet service in Kansas City. Hell yeah, I want velocious connections to my information super highway so I can amp up my music download sessions! When pre-registration for KC opened, I leaped at the chance to sign up for their warp speed internet service. However, the disappointment soon set in upon trying to register. I found that Google Fiber has no intention of making my area a “fiberhood” anytime soon. I was surprised to hear that Google was only allowing Kansas City, KS and Kansas City, MO boundaries to participate in utilizing their speedy cable, which is supposed to revolutionize our daily routines open another market to sell a shit ton more of their products and tools.
Kansas City is a test market and Google needs people in the pre-selected areas to buy into the roll out…I get it. However, will Google Fiber installation in the pre-selected areas really “bridge the gap of the digital divide”? Apparently, the message that follows the Google Fiber buzz is that it will. While talking to a friend about the subject, he interpreted the message as “exposing” the digital divide in the city. As the majority of the areas not signing up for the Google Fiber service were clearly being reported to be east of Troost (which has a known reputation for dividing the seemingly rich and poor). When examining the registered neighborhoods a bit closer on the Google Fiber website, it would be more accurate to say that the areas east of Prospect are lacking in registration for the service. Unfortunately, the pot of historical segregation and race issues that KCMO is all too familiar with, is getting stirred up by all the hype regarding the unregistered areas due to low-income households.
I would say that the unregistered areas were easily predictable and Google Fiber probably knew this. A hype move by Google? Maybe. Google Fiber claims that there will be a second registration period allowed for areas that didn’t get enough registrations to qualify for installation. During the interim of the second round, Google will be working on setting up grant funding and aid for educational programs in areas that need assistance as well. It is convenient that Google now has the material to paint their fiber optic service into a perfect picture of being Kansas City’s digital savior with their philanthropic efforts. But at the same time Google may be motivating competitors to re-evaluate areas that don’t currently have access to the internet. I am eager to see how this all will play out. Only time will tell, but until then I’m not buying the hype.