Google experiment could make us global model
The Kansas City Star
When Google chose Kansas City as the test market for its ultra-fast broadband network, Kansas City became a place where you can see the future today.
Rather than our former standard of being “up to date,” we blasted into the cyberspace age. In effect, we are a living, breathing reality show.
For this next generation Kansas City to reach its potential, each of us needs to step up. Individuals, communities, civic leaders, business, government and Google will co-create the possibilities.
Downloading a movie in a blink cannot be called revolutionary, but using Kansas City as a full-scale, real-time, seamless simulation can. In other words, technology becomes invisible and integrated.
Can making a Gigabit Kansas City enrich your life? Can you actually become healthier, wealthier or wiser just because your Internet access is uber-quick?
Imagine that on top of every surface, each building, street, object and person hovers a layer of information. All the information is connected.
As you act, you see the consequences, from environmental to economic. Before you act, you can simulate alternatives.
Much of that information exists on the Internet now. Instead, you have it in real time, wherever you are. Is that such a big deal?
It is if it changes your behavior or your sense of yourself or others, opens new opportunities or inspires you.
As we learn and adjust, the new Kansas City will be more shared and visible, and potentially, closer to our dreams.
Within five years, Google will have installed enough fiber optic cable to create interactive benefits within communities. Somewhere around 10 years from now, Kansas City will be a high-tech gigabit city, an incubator of innovation.
Much as landscape architect George Kessler once experimented on 1890s Kansas City as a place for boulevards and parks, Kansas City will become a new form.
What does “high-tech city” mean? One definition includes broadband speed, cost and availability, wireless Internet access, technology adoption, government support, education and technology culture, and future potential. The first two criteria relate to infrastructure; the rest are up to us.
With the addition of Olathe to Google’s plan, and presumably more Kansas City area cities in the pipeline, regional saturation becomes a possibility. However, within each community, access to people of all socio-economic levels is critical to tapping the full potential.
Civic leaders, community advocates, government, institutions and Google need to make access to broadband, including equipment and knowledge, priority one. If Kansas City achieves full engagement, we will be an international model.
In 1960s Kansas City, my middle-class family tested products from toothpastes to cereals. A few made it to market, and I’d bet most did not. Now the test case is the entire city.
We need Google fiber to make it to market. We all have a stake.
Google desperately wants its experiment to work, too, and the company is investing handsomely.
More than being up to date, through bold visions and collaborations, Gigabit Kansas City can become a global leader.
Cindy Frewen Wuellner is an architect and urban futurist. To reach her, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Midwest Voices, c/o Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.