Google has announced it will be providing its Google Fiber broadband service to public housing residents in Kansas City, where they had initially launched the service in 2011. This will be the same type of free-service that Google has already provided to the low-income residents of Austin, TX but faster than the sub-1Gbps connection that was provided. This move puts Google at the forefront of progressive “broadband for all” movement, blurring the much-debated line that defines internet access as a luxury or a needed utility.
Google has made a huge effort to push this as being much more than a move than to generate good publicity for the company. “For low-income families, access to the Internet can mean the difference between thriving or falling behind,” Dennis Kish, VP of Google Fiber, recently stated in a blog post. Dennis is right on the money, as internet access is rapidly becoming a necessity in today’s world of ubiquitous computing. Though it is still possible to pay bills, manage finances and handle other personal issues through “analog” methods, these methods will be phased out as devices that connect to the internet become more readily available and inexpensive. This will inevitably leave those without access to the internet or the knowledge of how to utilize it (typically the disadvantaged and the elderly) in the dust. Promoting free internet access will bridge this inevitable gap, as well as bring even more of the USA’s population into the digital age. This also eases the costs of agencies and organizations that have to spend funds on maintaining analog operations for their clients.
Making good on their promise to provide free high-speed internet to low income families, Google is working in accordance to the promises made when they signed on to President Obama’s ConnectHome plan, which is set to provide nearly 300,000 low income citizens with high-speed internet access. Their announcement to provide 1Gbps in speed actually goes beyond their original commitment to the plan, which is a welcome surprise. Though this seems excessive for the typical internet user, this will serve as a springboard for other companies to reference when they provide a similar service. Aiming high instead of starting low ensures that future trailblazers in providing this service make sure that all recipients have access to a speedy, stable connection.
Google’s move to provide residents with blazing-fast internet access is a sign of progression. Though the fight to properly classify internet access as a necessary utility rages on, seeing initiatives such as these come to fruition will result in other companies following suit. Once it is seen that providing internet access at a low cost (or no cost at all) is an effective process with little loss, we could see an entirely connected USA within decades (ending the Midwest “internet desert” in effect, if not sooner. Lets hope that this trend continues to grow and expand.