The city’s school district is worried that many of its buildings will be left without the fiber optic connections that will blossom in areas that are better off.
She has no internet access at home, so Robinett Foreman sweats over lost computer time at school.
The 17-year-old is one of 11 students out of 18 without home access in her business technology class at Kansas City Public Schools’ Central Academy of Excellence.
Stress builds in class, she said, “when I’m on a project, trying to do research, and [the internet] is running slow.”
Her high school, with its overwhelmed internet connection, sits in a neighborhood lagging well behind the pre-registrations Google requires to light up its cutting-edge web access.
“It’s not fair,” said Mona Price, Central’s dean of instruction. “It’s not fair to the kids in urban settings who are trying to get an education.”
Many of the schools, libraries, and poorest neighborhoods given first shot at drawing Google’s ultra-fast internet service look in danger of missing out on Kansas City’s digital revolution.
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Despite an offer by the tech giant’s Google Fiber operation to virtually give away some internet service to customers, the areas most lacking in online connections also appear the most likely to be left behind in Kansas City’s leap ahead on a light-speed network.
Less than two weeks remain for dozens of neighborhoods to sign up enough potential customers to qualify for Google’s service before a Sept. 9 deadline. But many neighborhoods—chiefly the least prosperous pockets of the metro area—remain far behind the pace needed to hit the Google-established thresholds of customer penetration.
That means many of the free connections Google agreed to make to schools, public buildings, library branches, and community centers won’t happen.
Google insists it’s too early to write off any of what it calls “fiberhoods.” It has begun to fix problems that have complicated apartment dwellers’ efforts to sign up for its service. And, most critically, the company points out that it has every incentive to round up as many customers as possible—and to expand to more neighborhoods rather than fewer.
Yet the Google Fiber rollout is driven by very real logistic and economic factors that make it impractical to offer the service where few people show an interest in buying service, even if that means a neighborhood school won’t get wired to tomorrow’s internet.