Google is surely pleased by the deal cut with Olathe.
By MARY SANCHEZ
The Kansas City Star
They did more than just ramp up the appetite for who will be next for high-speed Internet. The way the agreement is crafted, there will also be far less glaring attention to the digital divide in Olathe.
By agreeing to up to four, instead of the hundreds of free public hookups written into the contracts with the two Kansas Citys, Olathe sidestepped re-creating the drama that unfolded elsewhere.
Previously, agreements with the two Kansas Citys stipulated that if enough customers in a neighborhood pre-registered, Google would kick in a free hookup to a nearby school, library or other public location.
The signups proved difficult in low-income areas, particularly large swaths of Kansas Citys east side. It became a public reminder of haves and have-nots in regards to technology.
The division between who already has Internet service and who doesnt isnt being ignored by Olathe. But without the carrot of a school to rally around, it might take more effort to reach some portions of the city.
Olathe has concentrated pockets of poverty, Hispanic immigrants and refugee populations. Each group is likely to be a tough sell for Google Fiber, just as the east side of Kansas City and portions of Kansas City, Kan., proved to be.
When signups lagged in those areas, volunteers went door to door, explaining the benefits of the Internet, convincing many an elderly person that their grandchildrens school would benefit if their household pre-registered.
The work, along with Googles initial research on the divide, triggered awareness about the danger of too many families being uninterested in or unwilling to pay for being connected, by Google or any Internet provider.
Too many children metrowide are limited by not having Internet access when they return home from school. Thats a situation with long-term negative ramifications, particularly in regards to a well-educated workforce.
But Olathe decided four free hookups would be sufficient. The reason is that a lot of public networks are already interconnected, so Google could cover a lot territory with one hookup.
The sites havent been announced. But City Hall, county offices and the school district are central point options.
Ron Shaver, Olathes deputy city attorney, previously worked in the budget office of Kansas City, Kan. Those connections gave him insight into making the agreement with Google.
By leapfrogging over Overland Park, Google reignited competition among cities eager for the service and by other Internet and cable carriers.
It behooves Google to gain as many customers as possible.
But responsibility for diminishing the digital divide is a challenge for city leaders everywhere.
To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to email@example.com.