August 27, 2012
Amanda Schnieders, Kauffman Foundation
Community Efforts Target Education As Fiber Rallying Point
With only two weeks left in Google's rally to pre-register for fiber in Kansas City, community efforts are becoming more and more important in order to incite interest in areas that are still a ways off from meeting the required numbers for their fiberhood. The Local Investment Commission (LINC) is trying a local tactic to get residents invested in a program that would provide free gigabit speed to public services in the area.
As an organization that provides after-school programs to 27 schools in the Kansas City, Mo. area, LINC found the best way to reach out to residents was to get them involved in providing better opportunities for the schools and children in their areas. Flyers were created for the schools, urging parents of students and community members to pre-register for Google Fiber in an effort to bring super-fast Internet to the local schools in the areas.
"We weren't telling them to do it for their households, we were telling them to get it for the school, in order to provide for a wider audience that would benefit more of the community," Director of Communications Brent Schondelmeyer said.
LINC's site provides informational material about Google Fiber's educational benefits, school flyers, and a listing of which schools have met their goal and those that are close or far from it. Paired with a daily updated spreadsheet that lists how many more registrations each school's fiberhood needs, the site depicts the hard fact that 16 of the 27 have still not met their goals, with one school still needing as many as 78 more to register.
"While talking to people, we often found that many were uniformed or misinformed about the possibilities and opportunities available with Google Fiber," Schondelmeyer said. "Sometimes, it takes someone these people know or someone from the neighborhood, local radio or even newspaper to say 'Hey, for $10, look what you can do for this community'."
Whittier Elementary's fiberhood of Lykins South just turned green, and Schondelmeyer said they couldn't be happier, but he still worries about the fate of the rest of the schools on their list, not to mention the other public service buildings that still hang in limbo. Whogetsfiber.com is an anonymous community site that lists and updates the public service buildings that have met their goal, are almost there and those that are "far from eligible".
"It was shocking to look at that list and see that places like City Hall in Kansas City, Kansas, the KC Public Library on the Plaza and Kansas City Community College were on the 'Far from Eligible' list," Schondelmeyer said. "Even the Sprint Center and Union Station aren't quite green yet."
Looking at fiberhoods from a public service building angle, demonstrates how many important institutions in Kansas City may go without Google Fiber when September 9 rolls around. Schondelmeyer said this kind of list means community rallying is even more important in these next 14 days.
"I hate to see the digital divide widen as green fiberhoods fall on the west side of Troost Avenue, and areas on the east side of Troost get left behind by not meeting the requirements," Schondelmeyer said. "This is why community efforts are so important. You go into one of these communities and host a spaghetti dinner, and you could make $300. It's just a matter of effort and people willing to put in the time to really make sure everywhere in Kansas City has the opportunity for Google Fiber, especially the staples of our communities."