West of Troost Avenue, the map is mostly green, indicating neighborhoods with plenty of eager customers. East of Troost, pre-registrations largely are low. In Kansas City, Kan., the map looks more quilt-like. Places where incomes are lower seem to have little chance of getting Google’s blazing-fast internet service.
“I’m concerned that the digital divide”—the gap between electronic haves and have-nots—“will be exacerbated by the fact that you’ll have extremely fast internet in some neighborhoods, while people in neighborhoods with fewer resources will be left even further behind,” said Christopher Barnickel, an assistant director at the Kansas City, Kan., Public Library.
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.
“We worked hard to close the technology divide between our kids and more-resourced communities,” said school district spokesman David Smith.
All students in the district high schools, for instance, are issued laptops.
“It is unimaginable to us to have that divide reopen,” Smith said.
Some say the bridge over the digital divide now seems like a mirage.
“It does not have the feel of the universal access that was part of the initial description,” said Karen Hostetler, a resident of the East Argentine section of Kansas City, Kan.