|photo from the Broadband Technology Opportunity |
Program site depicting a training class.
A report on a April 4, 2011 radio report produced by KC Currents' Sylvia Maria Gross focused rare attention on services for low-income people in Kansas City, Kansas when mentioning the city's "high poverty rate. And like similar places around the country, [Mayor] Reardon says there's a digital divide between those who have access to the internet, and those who don't."
There are already several large players building a nationwide network, including AT-T, Sprint, and Verizon. Google's venture here is like many ventures an entrepreneurial experiment.
The mix of Internet providers in this community -- cable, phone, satellite, and now wireless -- means consumers or organizations are not without service options. Cost and access are important factors in determining the success of this experiment after the bright lights have dimmed.
The rapid growth of smart phones and data plans means that the cost for phone service may make connecting to Google's network unattractive, especially if it comes with a relatively-low $30-$50 per month charge. Who will want to pay this additional fee when they are already on a $80 monthly cell phone data plan?
Google's network, beyond the speed, will not transform Internet access unless it considers these qualities: free access at public locations open at all times. If this sounds outrageous consider the goals of two Missouri-based efforts to extend broadband to underserved areas (or here) and build public computer centers throughout the state.
Google built its' commercial search site on the pages and information from individuals, businesses, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. And Google, like many technology companies, has tried a host of ventures, some succeeding, others failing. However, by definition, innovation requires some failure amongst the success. Clay Shirky, a media scholar at New York University, underscores this point in Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations when he suggests small groups should try out new media to benefit their organizations. Shirky also highlights the success/failure dynamic in reference to much larger models or organizations.
But most of these businesses try large-scale innovation projects for the purpose of making large profits -- who remembers Google Video after they bought YouTube or Google Wave, an email venture, or Google Buzz, their attempt to build another commercial social networking site competing with Facebook, MySpace, and others. Will the Google Fiber project in Kansas City, Kansas be a successful effort to tip the Internet service market to Google? And will the KCK project provide affordable or free options to close the digital divide for area residents?