Google’s blunt message to Overland Park: No fiber for you — yet

04/05/2014 6:05 PM

04/05/2014 6:05 PM

Don’t get your hopes up, Overland Park residents.

Google Fiber does not appear headed your way anytime soon — even if you are an extremely prosperous community, the second largest city in the Kansas City area and the shining star of the Kansas jobs market.

Google Fiber project manager Kevin Lo was on speaker phone this week, talking to The Star’s Editorial Board, when I asked about the strained Google-Overland Park relationship.

After first evading a direct answer on when fiber would come to that city, Lo said this:

“We will see what happens when we’re finished up with the rest of Kansas City.”

Ouch.

A quick update about this touchy subject:

Last September, after many months of negotiations with Google Fiber, Overland Park officials delayed a final vote on an agreement. The city said it wanted to work out a few last-minute concerns that, it turned out, were unfounded.

But in a stunning turnabout, a Google representative

at a council meeting in October announced that the company wanted an “indefinite continuance

” in signing the pact to bring the high-speed Internet service to Overland Park. Surprised city officials agreed to wait.

In some corners, Google’s move was seen as the tech giant showing the rest of the world what happens when you dare to question it: You get ignored.

That delay is now more than five months old, and counting.

Some tech-hungry residents in Overland Park have taken to social media in recent months, often with barbed statements aimed at city officials for imperiling the future of fiber in the affluent and growing city.

However, considering that Google Fiber already has signed agreements with at least 20 area cities — and is installing fiber in some of those cities now, with many others on the list to follow — it could be a long, long time before Overland Park gets the upgraded service.

Overland Park spokesman Sean Reilly downplayed Lo’s recent comment, saying city and Google officials continue to be in touch.

He noted that residents in other large Johnson County cities that have signed agreements with Google Fiber — such as Olathe, Shawnee and Lenexa — haven’t received their promised hookups yet. And, Reilly continued, his city’s contracts are ready to be signed whenever both sides want to get it done.

A Google spokeswoman, following up on my questioning of Lo, responded in an email with a similar statement.

Wrote Jenna Wandres: “Despite the fact that we are focused on bringing fiber to other areas (south KC, Northland, and our other local expansion cities too), we have kept in contact with Overland Park. They’re in the loop about our local construction plans, and that we’re focused on other areas, for now — and that we’ll keep them updated about any future opportunities to discuss fiber with us.”

So all’s right with the world, right?

Except for this inescapable fact:

If Google really wanted to ease the concerns of many Overland Park residents, the company could simply

sign the agreement right now with city officials

.

That would be a photo opportunity for Mayor Carl Gerlach, who last fall had said, “We’re willing to wait as long as it takes.”

Five months later, he and his citizens are still waiting.

Signing the pact would show that the past had been forgotten, and Overland Park and Google were teammates on this project.

Except, again, that hasn’t happened yet.

So should Overland Park residents be sanguine about this matter and trust that — in their own good time — Google and Overland Park officials will kiss and make up?

Let’s hope so.

Google needs Overland Park, with its big base of data-using customers. And lots of Overland Park residents are hungry for Google Fiber.

The Google Fiber roll-out elsewhere is taking its sweet time, even in Kansas City, which has had a signed agreement with the tech giant for several years.

Just last week I ponied up my $10 deposit for the fiber, which may come later this year (next year?) to my east Kansas City neighborhood.

At least right now, it appears we are more likely to get the service before anyone in Overland Park does.

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