Imagine internet connectivity with speeds up to 10 times faster than people are experiencing now. The possibilities are endless, or at least that’s what Google Fiber claims. Google Fiber is bringing internet in the United States to a whole new level by using strands of glass for wiring opposed to metal wires. This glass allows for light to shine through, letting information travel faster.
In 2009 Google teams took part in the development of the Federal Communications Commission’s national broadband plan. In doing this, team members saw the opportunities that something like Google Fiber would present to them. The search for the location of headquarters then began, and applications were sent in from cities around the country in 2010 in hopes of having Fiberspace, the Google Fiber headquarters, near them. It was announced in March 2011 that Kansas City, Kan. would be the first city to receive the revolutionary internet service. Then, in May, Google announced that Kansas City, Mo. would also receive it.
According to Google Fiber’s community manager Rachel Hack, Kansas City’s infrastructure and community of entrepreneurs stood out to Google. Not only did the utility part of the infrastructure meet Google’s needs, but the business infrastructure also encouraged the construction project to move at what Google likes to call “Google speed.”
“I think it’s one of those things where they saw the potential in Kansas City,” senior Helena Buchmann said. “We are the heart of America but it wasn’t really until the past 10 years that we have started developing up to par with what our name deserves.”
Buchmann is one of the few East students who lives in a Fiberhood, a neighborhood designated by Google that will be able to use Google Fiber in the first rally, or the initial steps. Buchmann’s Fiberhood, North KU Med, has already exceeded their goal of having five percent of households preregister for Google Fiber, a major step in the rally process.
Google Fiber, it seems, is here to give people the chance to discover their potential. Some families will connect to the internet for their first time from home, allowing them to use online banking, search and apply for employment and check on health records. Some of these families will experience these services that many people have been using for years, for the first time. There are also agreements that both cities — 30 sites in Kansas City, Kan. and 300 in Kansas City, Mo. — will receive free services from Google Fiber. Places such as schools, libraries, government buildings, emergency service centers and healthcare facilities were considered and chosen by the mayor.
Along with helping individual homes take advantage of the technological advances we have today, Google Fiber is bringing jobs and people to Kansas City.
“People from New York and Chicago have been emailing into Google saying, ‘I need to move to Kansas City right now. I need to be where this is happening because this is going to be a big deal,’” Buchmann said. “It’s going to help our cities grow so much. The more people, the more possibilities.”
Fiberspace, the attraction that housed the start of Google Fiber, is located on the corner of 43rd Street and State Line Road. What looks to be a simple building about the size of a swimming pool is actually an internet haven, filled with devices to show people how the renown service works.
“Ultimately Fiberspace is here for people to experience Google Fiber,” Fiber marketing representative Tyler Jacobs said. “Why we’re here. What we do.”
Fiberspace is open to the public every day of the week. The warm colors, countless couches and La-Z-Boy chairs parallel the homey and relaxed feeling given off by the employees. Computers, televisions and interactive structures fill the room, strategically placed in order to avoid covering up the artwork on the walls. The Fiberspace employees chat amongst themselves or with visitors over the background noise coming from the football game on TV, an intense NASCAR race on Wii and YouTube videos.
“I think we have some repeat visitors, especially to the video game section,” Hack said. “During the summer we would have people coming in here playing for two hours.”
Everyone at Fiberspace, including employees, are more than welcome to experiment with all of the electronics and Google is more than happy to have gamers hangout until closing. Across from Fiberspace is an event space where experiences varying from tours to cooking or pilates classes via high speed internet are held. There is a very positive tone in the headquarters that draws people in and encourages them to learn more about what is being offered. Being part of a city that was chosen to be the home to Fiberspace allows for an almost powerful feeling, with the thought that we will be some of the first to use a service that has the ability to be extremely successful.
The first rally ends on Sept. 9, followed by the installation process which will begin in homes in the fall. After the first group of Fiberhoods are completely set-up with the services, Google teams will analyze everything to see what worked and didn’t work in order to improve the process when it comes time for expansion, enabling more and more possibilities.
“The endless possibilities are almost things that we haven’t imagined yet. I think it’s entirely possible that the next YouTube could come out of Kansas City,” Hack said. “There is someone somewhere that will take incredible bandwidth and make that next great application that will make education better or health care better. For a while people just wanted to watch videos online because you could watch a video online, not because it was really that great of a video. It’s more about wow, look what I can do because I have this access.”