What would you do with internet connectivity 100 times faster than you have right now in your home? How would access to an ultra high-speed broadband network fundamentally change the communities of which you are a member?

These questions were at the heart of live video-feed remarks by Matt Dunne, Manager of US Community Affairs for Google at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce 2011 Innovation Conference as he discussed the Google Fiber build out in Kansas City Kansas and Missouri.

What’s Google Fiber?

From the Google perspective, Google Fiber is about delivering ultra high-speed internet connections into a wide-spectrum of Kansas City households. The introduction will provide access to internet speeds never before deployed in a consumer market. Most homes have internet connections with speeds 1% of the one gigabit promised. With Google Fiber the speed will be available for both downloads and uploads (most download speeds are 8 megabits although uploading is at 1 or 2 megabits).

One objective is learning how the connectivity and apps developed to take advantage of the ultra high-speed broadband network will change peoples' lives in the community. The initial real-world learnings will start with one neighborhood on each side of the Kansas-Missouri state line and expand to neighborhoods with the highest demand for the service.

Entrepreneurs and others around the globe are expected to look at Google Fiber as a new way to develop content, cross-industry and cross-discipline apps, and other online assets that can be delivered directly to consumers.

According to Matt Dunne, the project provides the opportunity to bring innovations Google is developing to Kansas City. The community will be an ideal test bed for further innovation as developers are able to test and introduce new tools with a critical mass of consumers who can provide feedback. This provides an opportunity to attract additional innovators to Kansas City.

What Success Will Look Like

For Google, success will be measured by actual use of the network by a high concentration of consumers across socio-economic categories to make differences in their lives. Dunne highlighted two specific areas:

  • Making sure neighborhoods understand the value of the ultra high-speed internet connectivity and are generating demand for it. Consistent with this, the build out will spread based on where demand is highest, in what Dunne described as a "democratized process."
  • Delivering support for organizations vital to daily lives. This will be demonstrated through creating apps that make a difference in schools, libraries, health centers, senior centers, etc.

Shaping the Impact of Google Fiber

Responding to a question from Innovation America founder Rich Bendis about the timeline for roll out beyond Kansas City, Matt Dunne said the company is currently in discussions with other communities. Its first step, though, is making sure it has a proof of concept with the Kansas City build out. Beyond Kansas City having the notoriety of being the first community chosen, it can expect an exclusive window through the first several quarters of 2012 before a next area is started.

Since this is the first widespread consumer implementation, what it will mean for Kansas City is an open question for citizens, developers, and innovators to explore and shape. In lieu of looking to the company for support, investment, or direction, Dunne recommended Kansas City community groups move ahead with ideation and identifying ways to exploit these new capabilities. He noted locally-hosted gatherings planned around specific topics (telemedicine and entertainment were mentioned) with the intention of prompting formation of new ideas, connections, and networks of innovators. – Mike Brown

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