Googling is a bit uneven in Kansas City

Googles all-fiber network in Kansas City has gotten a great deal of publicity. But what's really going on there?

As Andrew Schwartzman, long-time public interest media advocate, points out in his daily blog post, Google’s Kansas City project only benefited some:

•    Google’s decision to prioritize deployment in neighborhoods based on demonstrated demand remains controversial.
•    Google’s initial outreach to minority communities was deficient in the eyes of some local leaders.
•    Perhaps most importantly, even though Google was offering free (sort of) lower end service, there have been several obstacles to hooking up low-income users.

Or, more succinctly, Fast Company magazine said, “... today in Kansas City, Google Fiber is a lot like a $4 ice cream sandwich on a hot day – a welcome treat for people with disposable income, but still out of reach for others.”

Fast Company looked carefully at a report by market analysts from Bernstein Research, conducted in May, 2014. Bernstein looked at some 350 households in the Google Fiber footprint. “They found,” said Fast Company, “75% penetration of Google Fiber in medium-to-high income neighborhoods and 30% in low-income neighborhoods.”

In other words, whatever Google’s motivation and strategy, the build-out highly favored upper income residents. A more recent survey by The Wall Street Journal “... found only 15% of residents in six low-income neighborhoods surveyed subscribed to any version of Google’s service. The research also shows 9% of surveyed new subscribers previously had no Internet at home before.”

And some segments of the population were even more neglected. As Fast Company found:

“When the product launched, they had no Spanish-language marketing materials or website, in an area with a long-established Hispanic community that comprises 10% of the population. Google reps tried to entice people to sign up service in minority-dominated areas where many people weren’t in the traditional banking system, asking for a credit or debit card number to enroll as they canvassed neighborhoods.”

Andrew Jat Schwartzman (The Daily Item, Feb. 9, 2015)
Lessons From Google’s First Rollout Of Google Fiber (Fast Company, Feb. 6, 2015)