MARY SANCHEZ

No time for KC to dawdle with Google Fiber

Updated: 2013-04-11T06:52:35Z

By MARY SANCHEZ

The Kansas City Star

One adjective consistently appears in news accounts of Google Fiber choosing Austin, Texas, as its next stop: “tech-savvy.”

No one says that about Kansas City. And they aren’t likely to anytime soon.

Two years after Kansas City was anointed by the Google bunny, the window of opportunity is beginning to close here.

Eighteen months is the latitude that we have, according to one expert in innovation.

Look for the interactive design work of Eli Kuslansky’s firm within the Nelson-Atkins’ current exhibit of Chinese landscapes. The New York-based Kuslansky keynoted an address for AIA Kansas City Design Week in March and also spent time linking with the movers behind our Google Fiber efforts.

Too much emphasis on nurturing an “A-team of techies,” or shunning risk, could squander our momentum, he said this week.

“The focus should not be so much individual programs, but a culture of innovation citywide,” Kuslansky said. “Where it shows up in everything.”

Aaron Deacon is in agreement. Deacon is working on taking the “playbook,” a strategy of bistate efforts designed around Google Fiber, forward with tangible metrics, outcomes and budgets.

A sizable community buy-in will need to follow.

So far, much hope and hype has gone toward the idea that a young entrepreneur will be lured by our ultrafast gigabit, develop their ingenious idea and voila! Kansas City becomes Silicon Prairie.

Catchy label, but it’s even less likely now that parts of Austin could be wired as soon as the middle of next year.

Think instead about creating a Kansas City region interconnected in ways presently unfathomed. Building off of our many local assets, creating something unique through pilots.

What Google is doing to the Internet industry is a tease. Look at how AT&T and other providers are reacting: ramping up and insisting on getting the same fast-track deals to compete. That’s good for consumers and might even be part of Google’s master plan to jump-start ultrafast fiberoptic nationwide, even globally.

How well Kansas City is positioned for that future reality is what’s at stake. App by app isn’t the route.

Structuring aspects of the region’s many amenities to be a city of the future — highly connected, far fewer silos of information, creativity and talent — is a better focus.

Bistate leadership and the drivers of local economic development, along with many voices that have emerged since Google Fiber first tapped the region, have long known this day was approaching.

What we don’t want is for Kansas City to be stuck with an asterisk, noted only as the first place where the ultrafast fiberoptic was unveiled.

Kansas City needs to be known for what it did with its advantage.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to msanchez@kcstar.com.

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