Posted by lynnemariefox on October 5, 2012
Today our keynote was Rachel Hack of Google. Her presentation addressed the Google Fiber Kansas City project. She described the project, showed some video, and talked about what has happened in the inaugural Google Fiber city and how librarians can play a role. Kansas City was chosen due to the available partnerships, good infrastructure and a business friendly economy. They also offered opportunities for digital inclusion of the approximately 25% of KC households without current internet connections. A special pricing program will encourage these households to participate. Google hopes this will be life changing for these households.
[Author comment: don’t get carried away by Google’s generosity. Much in the same way that cable companies achieved regional dominance in some marketplaces in the 70s and 80s, Google hopes to be the dominant player in internet, television and communication services and is testing that theory in KC. Let’s not forget that residents are committing to multiple year contracts to qualify to have fiber run in their neighborhoods. Initial results show that the have nots didn’t qualify and special pricing and installation plans are the result of pressure from organizations and city government to spread fiber to lower income areas.]
Fiber will allow home and business connections to the internet at speeds 100 times faster than currently. Services for internet, television, cloud storage, etc., will be part of packages. One of the benefits will be simultaneous upload and download of large packets of data. Home access at these speeds may revolutionize business productivity and the ability to work at home.
This exciting new development is being rolled out in 200+ “fiberhoods” in Kansas City that were formed by local level community organizing. Schools, government facilities, libraries, community centers were identified by the city government for fiber installation. An additional 22 neighborhoods are being examined for consideration, while neighborhood activists and organizers work toward the required participation rates. Community organizations are also looking at creating grant programs for low income residents to encourage greater participation in the digital future.
Librarians will have opportunities for innovation, training, and tracking the impact of fiber. Libraries will participate, uping their game in the arenas of computing and content creation.
[Lynne M. Fox, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Health Sciences Library]