Nonprofits reach out to Google to talk about Internet access in poor communities.

Google attempts to bridge the digital divide with Kansas City's poor communities 

Nonprofits reach out to Google to talk about Internet access in poor communities.

Page 2 of 3

Critics have complained about the way Google required customers to sign up: with a credit card and on a website. They say those demands asked too much of citizens without Internet access or plastic.

Additionally, as the preregistration deadline approached, local TV news and The Kansas City Star reported that Troost Avenue was Google Fiber's dividing line, and that East Side fiberhoods' preregistration numbers lagged.

But many working with nonprofits say Google has been helpful in signing up poor residents.

Leigh Blumenthal, a community organizer with Blue Hills Community Services, says reports of Google being hands-off in poor neighborhoods are wrong.

"They [Google] had a learning curve when they came to Kansas City," she says. "They didn't understand the population."

But the company soon figured out how to help the East Side ensure that schools in the neighborhoods received Fiber, she says.

"The Google team couldn't have been more supportive or invested in that neighborhood and working with residents to make that happen," Blumenthal says. "Anytime we said, 'Let's have this registration event at the [Blue Hills] Neighborhood Association,' they were there. They would just send people and make sure they were there to support it. That's what it seemed like was going on in all the surrounding neighborhoods."

Blumenthal says there was a sense of pride when all the fiberhoods in Blue Hills reached preregistration goals.

"They were really excited, really proud," she says. "You know there was all this criticism going on in The Kansas City Star about [how] east of Troost isn't going to be invested in something like this. And I think people took that on as a challenge. It kind of got things going."

The Blue Hills North fiberhood is slated to receive Fiber in fall 2013.

Calvin Jones, program manager for the Front Porch Alliance in the Ivanhoe Neighborhood bordering Blue Hills, echoes Blumenthal.

"Not only did they help us out, but [they] sent a team of, I believe, five or six out to our facility," Jones says.

Google's employees helped residents set up e-mail accounts and sign up for Fiber's free seven-year DSL service. The Front Porch Alliance paid the $10 sign-up fee for 55 residents.

The only flaw that Jones sees in Google's strategy is that the search giant didn't actively market the free version to low-income areas.

"I would say where Google dropped the ball on Google Fiber in this neighborhood is, they didn't market it right," he says. "They marketed it for their ultrafast Internet speed and things like that, when a good majority of people in this neighborhood don't even have computers in their homes."

As for Liimatta's hot-spot plan for Rosedale Ridge, Google spokeswoman Wandres says it's not a viable way of connecting poor residents to the Internet.

"Access is certainly one of our major goals," Wandres tells The Pitch. "But another goal is to move the Web forward. And we think that having that gigabit fiber to the home is the way to do that right now."

She explains that a key goal of bringing Google Fiber to the area is constructing a physical infrastructure that would set up Internet access for future generations. In that way, digital literacy starts at home.

Wandres says 25 percent of Kansas Citians don't have Internet access at home — and the residents who didn't want to sign up typically said they didn't want the service.

"Most conversations weren't about cost," Wandres says. "They were about, 'I don't have the Internet now. I don't think I need it going forward.' "

Wandres says a Wi-Fi hot spot is a temporary fix, while hardwiring each residence ensures future access.

Comments (7)

Showing 1-7 of 7

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-7 of 7

Add a comment

More by Ben Palosaari

Latest in Feature

Facebook Activity

All contents ©2014 Kansas City Pitch LLC
All rights reserved. No part of this service may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of Kansas City Pitch LLC,
except that an individual may download and/or forward articles via email to a reasonable number of recipients for personal, non-commercial purposes.

All contents © 2012 SouthComm, Inc. 210 12th Ave S. Ste. 100, Nashville, TN 37203. (615) 244-7989.
All rights reserved. No part of this service may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of SouthComm, Inc.
except that an individual may download and/or forward articles via email to a reasonable number of recipients for personal, non-commercial purposes.
Website powered by Foundation