Google lights up the Sunflower state

When I first heard this morning that Google’s Fiber project was coming to Kansas City, KS, I thought it was an April Fools joke.

I then watched the presentation and tears came to my eyes.  I’ve watched Apple keynotes and gotten excited, but nothing to this level.  New iPads and other gadgets are fun and cool for those who can afford them.  However, Google Fiber changes the playing field and helps bring to an end the phrase “digital divide.”  Knowing this project is happening in my backyard (I live less than 30 minutes away from Kansas City depending on how they define it) is spectacular!

Personally, I’ve been a huge advocate of Internet access for all and I absolute detest any restrictions on Internet access.   The idea that an Internet service provider would put a “cap” or limit on Internet access is absolutely detestable.  While I liked Sunflower Broadband (now Knology) for many things such as local customer service and support, I simply couldn’t reconcile my personal beliefs with their bandwidth limits.  How very ironic that Google plans to bring faster service, without restriction next door at potentially a fraction of the cost.  Since Knology provides service near Wyandotte County, that puts them in quite the dilemma, doesn’t it?

On a global level, this is a very exciting time in human history.  Dare I be over dramatic, but I do truly believe this project to be one of the greatest undertakings since the Library of Alexandria.  Google wants to provide ubiquitous access to information to all citizens at speeds and qualities only dreamed of.  The videos give lots of fun examples of what can be done, but on a real practical level exchanging information is one of the key ways to achieve equality for all citizens and allow everyone to reach their full potential.  Limits, such as physical ability, disappear when the world is at your fingertips.  The shadows are no more in our society when everyone can exchange information in real time.  No wonder Egypt’s old government cut off Internet access during the protests there–an informed citizenry demands action.  The more a usable internet expands, the more technology makes a difference in everyday lives.  As Google’s video demonstrates, telemedicine moves from science fiction to science reality.  This project will save countless human lives.  I’m giving a huge “Like” to this one.

On the state level, this will have an amazing effect on the economy and politics of this state.  Kansas City, KS, while charming, has seen better days.  This will revitalize the city and bring a huge number of jobs to the state.  More businesses means more revenue and a stronger tax base and it will have a nice trickle down effect.  No cutting of the Arts Commission due to lack of funds.  No school closings because of not enough funding.  KCI will see more flights as more businesses relocate and everyone along the way will benefit right down the line. It’s like the ol’ days when a big road comes through your town and suddenly the roadside gas station and coffee shop sees tons of new business.  Personally, I’ve got one of those roadside service stations on the information super-highway.  All these new tech people coming into the area need tech support so I’m pretty darn excited about for myself and my business.  More nerds is a good thing!

Moreover, the political landscape of the state will change.  With an influx of new jobs and people will come more voters and potential changes in state politics.  It’s no stretch to say that we live in a rather conservative state and that tech people tend to be liberal.  While Wyandotte county has always voted Democratic, that influence will spread as more people come into the state and decide to live in areas outside of Kansas City.  Regardless of your political affiliation, this is potentially game changing on a state level.

Locally, wow.  WOW!  As stated earlier, bandwidth restrictions will be a thing of the past at least in this area.  AT&T’s deplorable bandwidth caps will have little place in a Google town and Knology will have to change its tune.  Our city commission will have to step up its game to compete with Kansas City for new business.  Heck, *I’ve* thought of moving to KCKS for the ultra-high speed Internet access.  Until Google extends its network to Lawrence we Lawrencians will have a big attractive competitor less than 20 miles away.  As of this writing, I’ve heard no responses from the candidates about how this affects Lawrence.  One company, Lawrence Freenet and Community Wireless, stand to become big players.  I personally was involved with supporting their efforts to bring more access to Lawrence, and the organization faced much resistance in its initial proposal.  If the city doesn’t go with Freenet, it’s gotta do something to compete with Kansas City, Kansas for jobs.

Some asked “Why not Topeka?”  I think Topeka was a key reason Kansas City was chosen.  That obviously got Google’s attention but in the grand scheme of things Topeka was the wrong place to start the project.  Kansas City is a logical starting point in this region.  Easy access to KCI airport and an easy to work with unified government were key factors in my opinion.  Every little thing makes a difference in a project like this and transportation I’m sure was a factor.  Additionally KCKS’s unified government with Wyandotte County means less red tape for projects.  The last thing Google wants is to have to worry about too many permits.  Once it’s in KCKS the fiber network can expand in all directions.  To the south and west is Johnson County, Topeka, and Lawrence.  East is Kansas City, Missouri, and further away are Wichita and Omaha.  All big important cities.  Topeka would have been a larger stretch and is not as centrally located.  Johnson County might have worked but with the politics and having Sprint located there may have been too complex.  Lawrence could have worked, but we simply didn’t put forth enough effort.  Kansas City, Kansas needs something like this while Lawrence and Topeka I think wanted it.

Ultimately we’ll all benefit as neighbors to Kansas City and fellow Kansans and ultimately the entire human condition is going to be elevated by this project.

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