Congratulations, Kansas City.
By MARY SANCHEZ
The Kansas City Star
Digital divide is now a common reference.
Kansas Citys first run at signing up people for Googles high-speed Internet has put the issue, and our efforts, in the national spotlight. Were the case study.
Time to steel for the challenge the term defines.
Across the U.S., cities face the problem of rural and lower-income socioeconomic areas being less wired than more affluent areas. Its serious business, with future productivity undermined unless the gap is lessened. A strong economy depends on the students of today being tech savvy and readied for future job markets.
And thanks to the massive outpouring of community action around Google Fiber, Kansas City is organized and poised to lead.
Within the next few weeks, the leader of a new digital team will be announced as an outgrowth of the Mayors Bistate Innovation Team.
Also, expect more information about a little-publicized program begun in 2011 by the Federal Communications Commission. Households that qualify by poverty guidelines for free and reduced-price lunch at public schools can order Internet service by established providers such as Time Warner for about $10 a month and also buy low-cost computers.
Meanwhile, Ken Carter of Googles corporate team told a group of local educators Monday that efforts in registering neighborhoods for Google Fiber exceeded my wildest expectations. He was in town gathering insight into how the company might offer local grants to help ease the digital divide.
The school leaders he addressed know they are key. Their enthusiasm and current efforts to enhance what high-speed Internet can offer their students are laudable.
Many neighborhoods reached their goals in the final days of the drive for preregistrations with unprecedented unity and cooperation. People worked like a well-organized political campaign.
On the final day for preregistrations, community volunteers huddled in a downtown office, committed to hours of work before the midnight deadline. Some had worked through the previous night.
Aaron Deacon, of the Social Media Club, stands out for his dogged determination. But teachers, superintendents, parents and students went door-to-door and manned phones, persuading people to preregister so that surrounding schools, libraries and other entities could take advantage of Googles offer of access for some public entities for free.
Others anonymously donated money to cover $10 preregistration fees. Local Investment Commission employees, with their close connections with schools, were critical.
Google has awakened an army of Kansas Citians who care deeply about narrowing the digital divide. Time will measure the outcome.
To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.