Google Fiber hype machine's big KC victory
The Kansas City Star
Wow. Google’s hype machine was in full gear Thursday. It was a marketing masterpiece.
With almost nary a negative word said locally, news about Google’s proposed high-speed Internet service spread over Twitter, blogs and mass media - with over-the-top help from KC Mayor Sly James, geek heads and regular Kansas Citians.
Calm down, folks. It’s another newsworthy breakthrough in technology. But…
The skeptic in me wants to know a lot more details about what Google really wants in return for making KC the first metro area in the nation with this service.
We’ll learn more about that in the future, I’m sure, especially as Google rolls out its service. We’ll also see how it works in the real world, not the controlled environment of a special event, as Thursday’s was for Google officials.
And we certainly need to know more about how businesses in the Kansas City area might be able to use Google Fiber to improve their bottom lines, leading to a healthier economy and more jobs.
That’s my real measure of success - not the one promoted so often during Thursday’s Google-led announcement that people will be able to download movies, pull up hundreds of photos and do all kinds of other things to entertain themselves. Nice, but hardly a breakthrough that spells “KC’s kicking other cities’ butts in new industries.”
Put simply: Is it good for the economy, or just for more entertainment?
I will acknowledge that the announced monthly prices for the service sound in the ballpark of what’s now charged for Internet and TV cable service.
And this is competition that could drive down prices for current providers, such as Time-Warner. That’s potentially good. Then again, competition among cell phone companies hasn’t exactly provided super cheap service, either.
I did receive some backlash Thursday for this tweet: “Good #GoogleFiber: more speed. Bad #GoogleFiber: it’s for rich neigborhoods (pls. don’t pretend otherwise).”
That prompted some followers to make these points.
Early adopters often pay more in technological breakthroughs (says the guy who spent $1,000 on a VCR in 1980).
Google’s service will still be price competitive - and offer better speeds - than current providers.
However, Google’s own website showing which neighborhoods (I’m sorry, “fiberhoods”) were signing up for the service on Thursday and early Friday showed a predictable pattern:
The more educated, middle- to upper-income neighborhoods in southwest KC and in midtown were signing up for first crack at the service.
Meanwhile, the neighborhoods without as many computers and without the income to afford the $70 or $120 proposed monthly charges for Google Fiber were signing up at far slower rates.
None of that means Google Fiber won’t be a big success.
But let’s not pretend there won’t be winners and losers with this advance in technology.
If Google Fiber narrows that digital gap - and makes more information available more quickly to more people to help boost the economy of KC - that’s all for the good.
However, being able to hook up eight computers in a house so people can be more entertained doesn’t set my world on fire.