Kansas City, Kan., has a great race track, a huge and fairly new shopping mall on the outskirts of town, and otherwise sits pretty much overshadowed by its much larger and more famous sister city across the state line -- Kansas City, Mo.
But on Wednesday, this gritty, blue-collar city upstaged its bigger cousin and more than 1,100 other cities by winning the bid to host Google’s new gigabit Internet network. Starting next year, its businesses and 143,000 residents will start to be hooked up to a network that will be 100 times faster than the Internet broadband service most Americans are used to.
Local officials and residents are thrilled. And so, apparently, is Google.
“It is a real honor for Google to be here,” said Milo Medin, the company’s vice president for access services, in a statement. “And we will work hard to deliver a service that will delight and empower this community to lead the nation forward in broadband."
While Kansas City, Kan., might not be the most popular pick to lead America into the digital future, it is precisely such small, nimble, and committed communities that are leap-frogging bigger cities in the move to gigabit speeds.
Santa Monica, Calif., has 1-gigabit network for its residents, while next door Los Angeles does not. Chattanooga, Tenn., has 1-gigabit service; Memphis,Tenn., which is much bigger, and Nashiville, Tenn., which is more famous, do not.
“It is a practical victory for Kansas City, but it is [also] a great inspirational victory for all of those communities that applied for the Google network and didn't win ... because all of those communities will get another burst of energy and they'll figure out a way” to get the service built, says Craig Settles, an industry analyst in Oakland, Calif., and cofounder of Communities United for Broadband, a broadband advocacy group. “The bigger cities typically have a political structure that makes it harder for them to maneuver” – and closer ties to big telecommunications firms.
High-speed Internet service is potentially a huge draw for businesses, whether they’re companies in telecomnunications, insurance, financial services, or any data-intensive company, Mr. Settles says. “You need to have good infrastructure to attract the next generation of businesses and jobs.”