Google Fiber comes to Kansas City

Nathan Zoschke

In 1997, the city of Kansas City, Kan.(KCK) was on the verge of collapse. The smaller twin of Kansas City, Mo., had suffered from population decline and the closing of several major industries, leaving the city cash-strapped.

But in 1997, things started to change.

The county and city governments merged and formed the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, streamlining bureaucracy and cutting costs.

The NASCAR Kansas Speedway race track was built, and massive tax breaks were given to create the Village West development on the city’s western fringe.

Soon after, KCK averaged 10 million visitors per year, and 6,000 jobs were created by Village West.

Income started pouring in, but the city’s problems didn’t disappear.

In 2000, KCK had the lowest per capita income of any metro city, two-thirds that of Kansas City, Mo., and half that of neighboring Johnson County, Kan.

And, apart from Cerner’s proposed development near Village West, few high-paying jobs have been created in KCK.

Most of the new jobs have been low-paying service sector jobs, although that may soon change.

Last week, Google announced KCK as the test site for its Google Fiber high-speed Internet service, which is roughly 100 times faster than conventional broadband.

KCK was chosen from a list of more than 1,000 cities, which also included neighboring Kansas City, Mo. and Overland Park, Kan.

The selection, however, has been attributed to the Unified Government’s consolidated control of the city and county’s utilities, which will ease the implementation of Google’s fiber-optic network.

The Unified Government voted unanimously to allow Google to move forward with the project, of which cost estimates run upwards of $100 million.

Construction will begin in 2012 and will continue throughout the next decade.

KCK public schools will have free access to Google Fiber, and local businesses and homeowners will be given competitive pricing options.

The economic implications of the decision are tremendous. KCK Mayor Joe Reardon has referred to Google’s decision as a “game changer.”

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