The Google Fiber project officially began a new phase with the laying down of fiber optic cables in KCK last month. On February 6th, Google’s Fiber Blog (http://googlefiberblog.blogspot.com/) reported the Fiber team was rolling out “thousands of miles of cables and stretching them across Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.” The Fiber Blog reports that Google’s initial focus will be on building a fiber backbone—from this backbone, Google will be able to connect to homes by summer of this year.
As a metro, we’ve never wavered in our excitement for Fiber. Business owners, entrepreneurs and IT buffs are clamoring for 1 Gig to any and everyone who will listen (see BBC’s recent story: Google Fiber: Can ultra-fast internet change a city?). In the din, it seems as though we may have forgotten to ask ourselves just how the cables will be connected to our homes.
Leave it to Google to anticipate our needs and desires once again (http://www.google.com/policies/privacy/preview/ ). Last week, FierceCable reported that Google has applied for a patent that would allow them to connect homes without digging trenches and burying cable in homeowners’ backyards (http://www.fiercecable.com/story/google-develops-technology-could-help-it-rapidly-connect-homes-1-gig-networ/2012-02-27 ). The patent describes a contraption that’s somewhere between a decorative wall hanging and a landscaper’s edging strip designed to conceal the fiber optic cables as they run from street to home. According to the patent application, “the edging device may have decorative color or pattern on the outside surface for aesthetic purposes”—clearly, appearance is on Google’s mind. Although Kansas Citians haven’t expressed much concern for the appearance end of Google Fiber, it appears as though Google’s patent application is anticipating an issue: homeowners won’t want tangles of fiber optic cable hanging on the exteriors of their houses.
History shows time and again that innovation is the product of problem solving and opportunity. In the Google example, simple lawn ornaments have been transformed into workable components of the Google Fiber project, thus eliminating future problems of dug-up backyards and the clutter of cable on their subscribers’ houses.
On the other side of the Google equation, most small and medium-sized business owners and would-be entrepreneurs are still in the problem solving stage. Google says it’s focused on “fiber-to-the-home first,” and there is no guarantee that Google will offer Fiber to commercial residents in the metro. Nonetheless, the city’s entrepreneurial spirit is quietly clicking away, searching for opportunities to utilize 1 Gig in the commercial realm.
BBC News stopped by Kansas City recently to ask these entrepreneurs if ultra-high-speed would indeed make a difference for them despite the fact that Google promises to focus on residents first. From the BBC’s reports, it appears as though Kansas City’s business owners are in the thick of brainstorming—some people think they can make bigger cloud infrastructures without the cost of setting up massive hosting areas, others think it will foster more telecommuting because the lag time won’t be so dramatic (which could certainly cut down on I-35’s nightmare commute), and still more think possibilities exist for the municipal side—like town hall meetings via hologram.
BBC News also addressed our cow town image—as did the FiberKC panel in January. If we’re going to rebrand ourselves—no pun intended—as a hotbed for IT talent and innovation rather than a cow town that caught a lucky break, we need to begin fostering that climate. Let’s stop talking about what Google is doing and starting talking about ways to utilize this infrastructure—with or without Google’s expansion of services to the commercial side.
Kansas City, if Google can solve its aesthetic problem with something so easy as a decorative artwork, how can you use Fiber speeds to spark new business ideas or improve your current model? Which of Kansas City’s public problems could you serve with superfast internet? Let’s rekindle the entrepreneurial spirit that runs through this city’s history and foster an IT climate that rivals any on either coast.