Yesterday, Google announced additional details for the implementation of a fiber network to Kansas City. I'm not going to repeat that stuff-- it's all over the internet. Just look around. What I'm going to do is air a bit of a grievance about it, because the more I find out about this deal, the worse the deal gets.
When Google announced last year that they would be building an unprecedented fiber network in Kansas City, all involved and affected were buzzing with energy and excitement, myself included. A gigabit of internet access to everyone in town! 650,000 residents thrust all of a sudden into the future. The potential was staggering.
The unimaginative could only see the face value. Higher-speed access to the internet. Youtube and facebook will load faster. Netflix loads faster, and possibly at a higher quality. But I saw that this was huge. It was much a greater catalyst than that, because my thought was that the potential for innovation, capitalism, and commercial opportunity would be so great that this would be the biggest economic watershed for Kansas City since the railroad bridge was built in 1869, and possibly bigger.
This was what I thought Google's idea was too. Then, over the intervening months I started to read about Google's fiber initiative including residential television service, and I became confused. What reason do they have to break into television? How will that foster the commercial renaissance I had envisioned? If anything, it'll just make it difficult for existing carriers to do business in Kansas City. That isn't innovation. With both KCMO and KCK bending over backwards to make this happen, that's government-sponsored competition killing. My opinion of Google declined.
Then, the announcement was finally made as to how things were going to go down. A marketing-laden presentation was given yesterday, to highlight the major points of Google Fiber, talking entirely about how it can be used and enjoyed by people at home. No mention whatsoever was made of the business application of it. No mention whatsoever was made of how it would improve public services, or level the playing field for Kansas City's ailing schools and underfunded hospitals. It was basically an expensive advertisement for a home ISP. Again, my opinion of Google declined.
It was announced that KC had been divided up into geographical areas referred to as "fiberhoods," which surreptitiously excluded large parts of the city. Each fiberhood coincided loosely with existing neighborhoods, or did as much as possible, and residents of each could now preregister for Google Fiber service. But a couple hooks were added without specific announcement. If a fiberhood didn't reach a number of preregistrations by Septemer 9th equal to an arbitrary percentage of all the housing units within it, the Google Fiber would not become available there.
Further, and cruelly so, in my opinion, Google has seen fit to deny access to its network to schools and public buildings in fiberhoods where the arbitrary goal isn't met. The goal for most of the city is five or ten percent, which on its own is very significant. However, in downtown it's twenty five percent, with the highly noticeable exception of the River Market, which is five percent. Google claims on the registration page and interactive maps that fiberhoods that don't reach their goal by September 9th will not get service, and the ones with the highest percentage of registrants, as compared to their goal, will get service rolled out first.
This is not a good time to live downtown. Amazingly-- flabbergastingly, downtown might actually not get Google Fiber service.
This is not a good time to innovate. This is not a good time to move your company to Kansas City. This is not a good time to invest in Kansas City. Because unless we hear something different, all we're looking at with Google Fiber is faster Facebook and Youtube.