The Kansas City times has a must-read column today by Mary Sanchez about the progress of Google Fiber. There’s a to be excited about, which I’ll write about in a separate post. But at the moment, it appears Google could be headed for a big backlash if it doesn’t offer a quick course correction.
The issued, as noted by Sanchez, boils down to this: There is a pretty stark diving line in Kansas City between middle class and poor, between black and white. The dividing line is a street called Troost Avenue that runs north and south.
See this map the Kansas City ran with Sanchez’s column:
Basically, almost no neighborhoods east of Troost are hitting the targets to qualify for Google Fiber. That means not just homeowners won’t qualify, but schools, libraries and other public facilities won’t get it either.
“Predictions of a backlash that Google neither fathomed nor intended are being voiced this week in community meetings with company representatives.
“The collateral damage for Google is going to be devastating,” said Kansas City school board member Joseph Jackson.”
Google HAS to fix this. Even it means pushing back the Sept. 10 deadline for registering. Missing that deadline could easily be forgiven. You just can’t have a situation where this happens:
“Not enough pre-registrations could mean there won’t be wiring to those neighborhoods’ schools, community centers, police stations, libraries — a range of public buildings that Google promised free access if goals were met.
Not one school east of Troost has hit the percentage of pre-registrations of surrounding homeowners that Google deemed necessary to trigger the free hookups. Low-income areas of Kansas City, Kan., also are struggling.”
Sharpening the divide between the haves and have nots in Kansas City would be a disaster for Google. It would go against everything the company, and this project, supposedly stand for.
Fortunately, some members of the KC community are hustling to figure out how to fix this. Google needs to listen. And they’re offering constructive advice to Google on different approaches it can make to boost sign ups in those neighborhoods east of Troost.
I belie that Google wants to do the right thing here, and that it will take this advice to heart. Now is not the time to be stubborn, or defensive.
Google Fiber represents a chance to turn the Kansas City area into a beacon of our digital future. But that won’t happen if it looks like the technology has just built new walls that shut certain groups out of this promise and opportunity.