Gigabyte Christmas: Google Fiber Discussion Buzzes at the Library

Last modified: 
Monday, July 9, 2012

Unless you’ve been living in a hole out in the prairie, communicating with the outside world only through smoke signals and/or fax machine, at some point in the past few months you’ve heard murmurs about the impending arrival of Google Fiber to Kansas City.

But in case you haven’t, get ready – the gig is coming.

A thousand times faster than broadband, 20,000 times faster than your dial-up prairie fax machine, Google Fiber will bring an Internet connection so fast, powerful, and flexible it will feel more like a whole new utility.

Google is currently laying fiber optic cable under the streets of Kansas City on both sides of the state line, and sometime in the first half of next year, folks living in KCMO and KCK will have the option to subscribe to the service at home. It’s also expected to become available in many public buildings, such as libraries and schools.

For us, this is huge.

Indeed, here at the Library, we’ve been full-on obsessing over the potential benefits that a light-speed 1GB connection could bring to our city. Empowering entrepreneurs, giving the school district a shot in the arm, decreasing the digital divide, improving health care for the disadvantaged – there are few areas of life, it seems, that couldn’t stand to gain from a stronger, faster Internet connection.

Over the past few months, we’ve developed partnerships with different organizations over our shared interest in Google Fiber. The Social Media Club of Kansas City and Think Big Partners have each approached us about conducting programs to raise awareness of Google Fiber in the community.

The Gigabit City

On October 3, 2011, SMCKC organized the brainstorming session Building the Gigabit City. With guidance from the Brainzooming Group, 80 members of the business and tech cognoscenti cooked up hundreds of ideas for how the gigabit connection could be used in areas such as schools, libraries, health care, the urban core, suburbs, and cultural events. (Watch a video summary of the event.)

The results of the session were released a month later at another Library event, Gigabit City: 1,001 Uses for Google Fiber. After Mike Brown from Brainzooming shared material from the Building a Gigabit City Report (link goes to PDF), representatives from the Mayors’ Bistate Innovation Team, the Kauffman Foundation, KCSourceLink, and Think Big Partners spoke at the event, forming a parade of the most influential business orgs in the city. It had never been clearer to me how excited this city is about Google Fiber.

After the gigabit dust settled, SMCKC and the Library began work on our next partnership.

Give Us a Gig!

Give Us a Gig! was launched at a series of meetings held last week at the Plaza Branch of our Library and at the Main Branch of the Kansas City Kansas Public Library. The project aims to take the Google Fiber discussion that’s being going on in boardrooms and bring it to the living rooms of ordinary Kansas Citians.

Give Us a Gig is an education-focused public outreach campaign that will provide resources for community members to get organized and go online to voice their demand for Google Fiber. Why do this? Google hasn’t yet revealed how the Fiber network will be rolled out to KC neighborhoods; all we’ve heard is that it will be provided to neighborhoods on a “demand” basis.

SMCKC took this “demand” concept and ran with it, devising a program that would encourage citizens to build websites for their neighborhoods and use those sites to tell their stories of how they think their community would benefit from a gigabit connection. At the two meetings last week, SMCKC fielded scads of questions from the audience and collected 100 sign-up forms from neighborhood leaders interested in joining the project.

The Library will be involved in Give Us a Gig by providing technical support and expertise to anyone wishing to take part in the project. We’re currently at work mobilizing a Gig Crew of web 2.0-savvy librarians who will be able to assist patrons who wish to post blogs, videos, or photos to the web for Give Us a Gig. (To find out more about the project, visit

Gigabit Challenge

It’s not just the local community that’s buzzing about Google Fiber. Think Big has teamed up with the Kauffman Foundation and others to hold a contest, called The Gigabit Challenge, for the best business plan to leverage the gig. They invited submissions from around the world – and one of the prizes is targeted at the best business plan that could be realized internationally – but a majority of the contestants are from Kansas City.

The finalists for the contest have already been announced. On Wednesday, January 18, 2012, at the Plaza Branch, the finalists will present their business plans in a daylong series of sessions. At the end of the day, the winners will be determined and prizes totaling $350,000 will be awarded.

The Gigabit Challenge Finalist Presentation & Awards Celebration is sure to be a day of some of the most advanced, technologically inspired thought and discussion you’re likely to see anywhere, and the whole thing is free and open to the public. (RSVP here.)

In conclusion, I couldn’t be more excited that the Kansas City Public Library has become a hub of discussion about Google Fiber. We’ve also been thinking of specific ways that we, as a library, will harness this broadened bandwidth.

And just think – Google Fiber hasn’t even arrived yet!

Rest assured, when it does, your Library will be chomping at the bit (the gigabit, that is), to provide you with easy access. It’s what we do.

About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library. He has been tweeting, Facebooking, blogging, and YouTubing for the Library since 2010.