The Kansas City Public Library could become one of the first public libraries in the nation to provide customers a free connection to Google’s cutting-edge high-speed fiber optic network. But we need your help to get it.
Though Google will deliver on its promise to provide a free connection to libraries, schools, hospitals, community centers, and other public buildings in Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., there is a catch.
Google is not going to hook up those buildings unless the people who live in the neighborhoods around them demonstrate an interest in getting Google Fiber at home.
In other words, Google is not going to build the physical infrastructure for Fiber without some indication people will subscribe to the service. That’s why it has carved the two cities into “Fiberhoods.” These areas must each meet a designated threshold of pre-registrations (usually about 10% of the pop. density) by a deadline of September 9, 2012, or no one in those neighborhoods will have a chance at getting Fiber.
To show Google that you want Fiber in your neighborhood, go to fiber.google.com , enter your address, and pledge $10. The ten bucks can be taken off your first bill if you do decide to get Fiber (see the Plans & Pricing  for details on packages, including a "Free Internet" service that gets you free broadband for 6 years).
And even if you don’t want Fiber at home, your money will go toward giving libraries, schools, and other important community access points a free connection to the gigabit-speed network – which they can, in turn, give back to the community.
Here’s five reasons why you should help the Kansas City Public Library get Google Fiber.
- More Bandwidth = More Access – Visit any of our branches any day of the week and you’ll see row upon row of public computers with patrons busily pounding away at each of them, with more people waiting their turn. We not only provide broadband Internet access through 700+ public terminals, each of our branches is equipped with free wi-fi for patrons who bring their own devices (sometimes setting up in our parking lots after hours to grab the free signal). With the 100-times-faster speeds of Google Fiber, our existing service will increase a hundredfold, allowing patrons to fire off emails, upload job applications, update their blogs, and watch educational TED talks  faster than ever before.
- The Digital Divide – Public libraries are the main technology access points for people in the community who don’t have Internet – or in many cases, computers, period – at home. Google Fiber will allow us not only to provide unprecedented network speeds to the most technologically under-served patrons in KC, we will also use it to develop new programs and initiatives that will help teach people to use technology to better their lives. (One quick example: The Library recently secured a $100,000 grant to plan a digital media Learning Lab  for teens at Science City in Union Station.)
- Smart Libraries, Smart City – There is a movement underway to make Kansas City a “smart city,” which means, in a nutshell, harnessing large amounts of public data and using it to make the city run more efficiently. It touches areas like energy consumption, transportation, public safety, health, mobility, water, and other civic systems. Libraries are integral to the smart city equation. Librarians have always been stewards of the community’s data. They collect, authenticate, and catalog data and build the tools and systems that make information easy to access and use for real-world purposes.
- Economic Development – With his Turn the Page program , KCMO Mayor Sly James has made the goal of getting all children up to grade-level reading by 3rd grade his single most important economic development objective. No other institution is better able to prepare kids for reading success than the public library. And it isn’t just kids. As we’ve been learning through our Cradle of Entrepreneurs  series of public conversations with Kansas City’s top business founders, every entrepreneur has a story about going to the library to do everything from conduct research to get inspiration from the books on the shelves. By boosting our citizens’ brainpower, libraries boost our economy.
- It’s Free! – Maybe the best reason of all: libraries are free to use. As our mission states, we are a doorway to knowledge for all people in the community. From the books on our shelves to e-books in the cloud, from helping parents get their children ready to read at school to bringing world-renowned authors to speak before diverse crowds, the Kansas City Public Library will continue providing the best resources we can muster, free of charge. Though pre-registration for Google Fiber will cost you $10, that’s money well spent toward making all of our branch libraries better beacons of free knowledge to the entire community.
That’s just an overview. We’ve got a lot more specific ideas cooking for how to take advantage of the Google Fiber connection.
Kansas City Public Libraries in the Fiberhood
To give you a sense of what we need to accomplish, here’s a list of all our branches, which Fiberhoods they’re in, and the threshold needed for each to get Fiber. (Click the links to see current standings)
Central Library: Business District  (424 pre-registrations needed)
I.H. Ruiz Branch: West Side North  (91)
L.H. Bluford Branch: Key Coalition North  (41)*
Plaza Branch: South Plaza East  (142)
North-East: South Indian Mound  (43)*
Southeast: South Town Fork Creek  (67)*
Waldo: Tower Homes South  (119)†
Westport: Westport  (48 needed)†
Total Goal: 975 pre-registrations
*As of this post, these libraries’ Fiberhoods have received fewer than 10 pre-registrations.
(Note: Trails West and Sugar Creek Branches currently not eligible as they are outside KCMO city limits.)
About the Author
Jason Harper  is the web content developer and social media manager at the Kansas City Public Library.