Google Fiber Falters in Kansas City

Almost two years since Google announced plans to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in trial locations throughout the US, the project seems to be hung up — on wires.

Almost two years since Google announced plans to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in trial locations throughout the US, the project seems to be hung up — on wires.Kansas City Star reports the project has been delayed by months because of a dispute between Google and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, which owns the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities and its utility poles. The hangup has to do with a disagreement over where and how to hang the wires, and any fees or installation costs that go with it.When Google first announced the project back in February 2010, the company said that it planned to offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people. Nearly 1,100 communities across the US responded to the announcement, and in March 2011, Google selected Kansas City, Kansas as the test city for the huge endeavor. The Google blog post announcing the choice said, “In selecting a city, our 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.” But hey, every relationship hits some bumpy spots, right? 

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And the rest of us can't be sure what's going on behind closed doors. According to the Kansas City Star article, Google hasn't commented on the dispute or any possible delays, even though the company originally planned to sign up its first customers by the end of 2011 and start rolling out the service by the first quarter of this year. The article points out, "It still hasn’t, in fact, announced how much it will charge customers. It has not begun installing the fiber optic network needed for its service. And its prediction of beginning service has slipped to the first half of this year. Just how many months have been lost is difficult to sort out, especially with both the Unified Government and Google refusing to say."Meanwhile, the unexpected delays can end up causing some unexpected consequences. The Kansas City community has been anxiously awaiting the new network, with some businesses even moving to the area in anticipation. For example, Dave Greenbaum, owner of DoctorDave Computer Repair in Lawrence, Kansas, expanded his business. In an interview last year, he admitted that Google was being hands off about telling the community how to prepare for the new high-speed network, but the Kansas City community has been working together on a grassroots effort to figure out how to take advantage of it. Greenbaum told me that he was so excited about Google Fiber that he opened a second location in the Kansas City area. Unfortunately, for a lot of people in KC, it appears that the original excitement about the new network is turning into anxiety and an exercise in patience.

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