Even with the right intent, the consequences create problems.
Google’s decision to provide fiber to homes was received with great fanfare. For the expectation, initially, was that everyone would have access to fiber to the home in Kansas City. But that is not exactly how things are working out for access to fiber. As you can see above from the Google fiber site, this is a great deal for Kansas City. Pricing and services are excellent and you get great speeds associated with Google fiber. But as they say, the devil is in the details. And the details appear to be creating concern for some. There are even reports that some schools may not get the fiber service because of how this is being handled.
With the paid Google Fiber services, you get a Google Drive at 1TB included which is a good deal. Why wouldn’t everyone want to jump on this and take advantage? This question appears be the heart of the matter. At the moment, it is all about sign ups, or pre-sign ups, at this point. It appears that people have been slow to register as you can see from the Google fiber tracking map. And if there are not enough people signing up, Google will move that neighborhood to the back of the line. And it is that situation which will add to the digital divide.
This divide in Kansas City is pretty much along the richer and poorer neighborhoods. And that is where the digital divide exists in so many cities across the US. As a result, Google is creating neighborhoods with Google fiber and making things worse by create literally classes of people. Those who have and those who have not. Google has even lowered the number of household sign ups in a neighborhood in order to be more inclusive. While that has helped, it still is creating situations where people are not going to be getting Google fiber and the fiberhood.
While there are costs associated with laying fiber in neighborhoods, such as digging trenches, it seems that Google is now focusing on those where they are going to be getting the most return on their investments. That is far different than how it was viewed when first announced. Here we are on the verge of them beginning construction and the realities are starting to show up. If you want to get free Internet, you have to pay the $300 in start up fees. For those who are paying for better services, there are no start up fees. And in that situation lies the problem.
If Google was really willing to provide services, they would wave the start up fees based on income. Foe those in lower income areas, which are not meeting the registration numbers, they can ill afford to pay the $300. It is those kinds of things which are creating this new digital divide in Kansas City.
Google has also agreed to provide connections to Public institutions, which includes the schools in the neighborhoods where they are rolling out their fiberhoods. But, if the lower income neighborhoods are not going to get the fiber to their homes, that means that the schools are not going to be getting the free fiber services as well. We add to the coming digital divide in Kansas City as a result.
Access to the Internet has become an important part of everyone’s life. But not everyone has that access. In the US, the cost to families for that connectivity is not cheap and it was hoped that we would see things begin to change across the US with lower prices and faster speed. In Korea, they have blanketed the country with fiber. Here is the US we are just beginning. And is seems that the digital divide is going to continue.