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Thin glass fibers the width of human hair are prepared to stretch from utility poles to private homes; the Kansas City metropolitan area and local businesses are ripe for the latest and greatest technology. Google Inc. has begun construction in Kansas City, Kansas on Google Fiber.
Google Fiber, an infrastructure of fiber-optic cables, will allow Internet connections at about one gigabit per second–approximately 100 times faster than the average American broadband connection and 20,000 times faster than dial-up. This connection speed estimates feature-length movies to be downloaded in five minutes and 3-D video to become easily accessible.
Google Inc. is a leading international Internet and software corporation — google.com is the single most visited URL address on the Internet. The company recognizes the importance of broadband capability to economic growth and innovation and is launching the Google Fiber project to bring innovation to the technology behind the Internet.
This ultra-fast technology is an experiment for Google. The company hopes to explore fiber networks as a new development technique, which will create opportunities for third parties to create new inventions, and operate under an “open access” network to allow Google Fiber users to choose their service provider.
Junior Helena Buchmann is enthusiastic about this new technology and what it means for the future of Kansas City. While her dad lives in Prairie Village, she spends about half of her time living in Kansas City, Kansas with her mother.
“I peed a little when I found out we got it,” Buchmann said
Buchmann was one of countless Kansas Citians to e-mail Google to help capitalize on the opportunity to bring higher speed Internet to her hometown.
On Feb. 10, 2010, Google sent out an open-call, hoping to find a population of anywhere between 50,000 and 500,000 people where this technology could give the community a technological jump.
Local governments and members of the public, like Buchmann, jumped at the chance. City governments and citizens alike contacted Google in efforts to attract affordable high speed Internet: Topeka, Kansas was temporarily renamed Google, Kansas in an effort to attract the multi-billion dollar company.
Of the 1,100 cities across the nation that submitted a bid, rallied or posted YouTube videos, Kansas City, Kansas had the ideal essentials: proficient utility poles and infrastructure. Additionally, Google hoped to develop relationships with the community, local government and community organizations.
Google has launched an initiative to build a relationship with the public. Its Google Fiber Blog posts updates on the project’s status in layman’s terms, making details of progress easily available to Kansas City and national audience; Kansas City residents can become involved in technological innovative ideas and keep updated on Google Connects KC, a website led by local organizations.
“A lot of companies wouldn’t do that,” Buchmann said.
In May 2011, Google announced the system’s expansion into the Kansas City, Missouri, covering the Kansas City metropolitan area.
Google Inc. recently signed an agreement with the Board of Public Utilities in Wyandotte County stating that it will pay $10 for each utility pole where fiber cable is installed in Kansas City, Kansas. Google will also pay $10 annually for the first 200 poles and an additional $10 for each pole thereafter. In Kansas City, Missouri, Kansas City Power & Light has entered an agreement which will allow Google access to its utility poles and existing fiber infrastructure.
These agreements with local government and businesses that allow Google access to existing electrical infrastructure will reduce cost and time spent gaining permits and constructing, ultimately benefiting the public.
The Google Fiber project has brought Kansas City into the headlines and is expected to draw developers to Kansas City.
“It’s awesome that we’re more on the map because of it,” Buchmann said.
Senior Aidan Connelly is excited that this technology improvement is coming to the Midwest.
“It’s bringing Kansas City into the future,” Connelly said. “It will be a positive trend for everybody.”
To complete the project, Google Inc. has partnered up with local businesses like the Kauffman Foundation and KCP&L. Engineers and entrepreneurs around Kansas City are vying for the chance to work with Google — around 100 Google engineers have been surveying the Kansas City metropolitan area, measuring and counting telephone and utility poles.
Blake Miller, a 2003 SM East graduate, is a partner with Think Big Partners, a Midwestern collaborative network of entrepreneurs.
“We’re really trying to put Kansas City on the map,” Miller said. “It’s one of the most entrepreneurial cities in the country.”
In 2011, Think Big Partners opened The Gigabit Challenge, a business plan competition of innovative technology ideas inspired by the high speeds of Google Fiber. Three winning companies were rewarded business investments and financial support.
“We afforded the opportunity for businesses from all over the world to relocate to Kansas City to be able to take advantage of Google Fiber,” Miller said.
Google Inc. estimates that Google Fiber will be connected to homes and running early this year. While prices have not yet been announced, Google hopes to offer a cost competitive with traditional broadband.
“Our Internet goes out all the freakin’ time,” Buchmann said. “My mom and I are definitely going to be taking advantage of the fact that [Google Fiber is] at a competitive price and like a billion times faster.”
When implemented, this unique, high-speed technology is expected to inspire innovations in education, entertainment and in attracting developers to Kansas City.
“Google Fiber gives Kansas City a leg-up in the ever-growing page of entrepreneurial cities,” Miller said.
Timeline of Google
1997-Larry Page and Sergey Brin decide on the name “Google,” for their search engine a play off of the word “googol,” a mathematical term used for the number 1 followed by 100 zeros.
1998-“PC Magazine” reports that Google “has an uncanny knack for returning extremely relevant results,” and recognizes the site as the search engine of choice in the Top 100 Web Sites for 1998.