Really, I’m not too jealous that Google has awarded Kansas City, Kansas a gigabit Internet to call its own. I mean it’s not as if my own home town, Asheville, NC, wasn’t more deserving of inexpensive broadband... although we were. Seriously, though, I’m sure Kansas City was worthy and, with more than 1,100 cities in the running, someone had to win and everyone else had to lose, and after Kansas’ exit from the NCAA basketball tournament, the JayHawks needed some good news. But, what about all those other cities that don’t have serious broadband?
You see, it’s not just Asheville or Kansas City that needs serious broadband we all do. In Google’s announcement, it states that Google has “signed a development agreement with the city, and we’ll be working closely with local organizations, businesses and universities to bring a next-generation web experience to the community.”
Google’s “goal was to find a location where we could build efficiently, make an impact on the community and develop relationships with local government and community organizations. We’ve found this in Kansas City. We’ll be working closely with local organisations including the Kauffman Foundation, KCNext and the University of Kansas Medical Center to help develop the gigabit applications of the future.”
Finally, “Pending approval from the city’s Board of Commissioners, we plan to offer service beginning in 2012. We’ll also be looking closely at ways to bring ultra high-speed Internet to other cities across the country.”
Sounds grand doesn’t it? I especially like that line about bringing ultra high-speed Internet to other cities. It’s just too bad that if the NC state government, and other state governments, have their way, neither Google, not anyone else, will be able to partner up with cities and towns to bring in high-speed Internet.
You see in NC, a bill called the "Level Playing Field/Local Gov't Competition" (PDF Link) act has just passed the house. It says it's intended to "protect jobs and investment by regulating local government competition." It’s really the cable industry's attempting to put roadblocks in the way of Google and other companies joining forces with local governments to provide affordable broadband Internet to a city or town’s citizens.
If the cable industry has its way, these public-private partnerships (PPP), such as the one Google just formed with Kansas City, will be forbidden. I’m not anti-capitalist or pro-government getting its hands into the Internet business. I just know that in practice, ISPs are really reluctant to upgrade their infrastructure to small cities and towns. ISPs often make big broadband promises, but they seldom deliver on their promises.
For all too many places, the only way we’ll ever see affordable broadband is by PPPs. If the cable industry gets its way, we won’t even have the option of a Google coming in and joining up with our local government to provide true high-speed Internet. So, once more, congratulations to Kansas City, I just wonder how many of the rest of us, if any, will ever get to see affordable broadband from similar partnerships.