MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
With about 150,000 people, Kansas City, Kansas, is just over the state line from its far larger sibling. Sylvia Maria Gross of member station KCUR looked into what this new high-tech marriage could mean both for Google and for KCK.
SYLVIA MARIA GROSS: At a deserted bus-stop in the heart of downtown Kansas City, Kansas, college student Jose Pineda says he uses the Internet to watch videos.
JOSE PINEDA: It already comes pretty fast.
MARIA GROSS: The new fiber-optic cable is supposed to be 100 times faster than existing technology in the United States. Pineda's not sure what he needs that for.
PINEDA: I mean, how fast could that be? Is that, like, the speed of light or what?
MARIA GROSS: He's not the only one asking.
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MARIA GROSS: Wyandotte High School's auditorium was decked out in Google's colors for yesterday's announcement. Governor Sam Brownback declared it Google Day in Kansas. But he, too, is not sure what you can do with Internet connections of one gigabit per second.
SAM BROWNBACK: Backstage, we were just talking ahead of time about, well: What does this mean? And everybody looks around, kind of - well, I am not exactly sure.
MARIA GROSS: That's part of the point of this experiment, says Kevin Lo, who's general manager of the Google Access project. He says the new burst of speed will drive innovation and create its own applications, just like broadband did in the past decade.
KEVIN LO: When you went from dial-up to broadband, that fundamental shift in how you use the Web is what we expect, what we believe will happen, on top of this network.
MARIA GROSS: Mayor Joe Reardon says the new network could make Kansas City, Kansas, a home for companies that rely on Internet distribution or need a lot of bandwidth.
JOE REARDON: We've already fielded calls within 24 hours of our announcement of people saying: Hey, where's housing? I'm interested in looking at your city. You know, maybe I should be moving there.
MARIA GROSS: The city also has a high poverty rate. And like similar places around the country, Reardon says there's a digital divide between those who have access to the Internet and those who don't.
REARDON: What excites us about our partnership with Google is they understand that, and they want to work with us to have this dialog to sort of bridge that digital divide, you know, not just by way of access, but by way of learning and understanding and valuing the Internet and connectivity as an essential component to quality of life.
MARIA GROSS: Michigan State University professor Robert LaRose says he doesn't expect Google will make much of a dent in the market in the short term.
ROBERT L: In the long term though, it might inspire carriers out there to help America get back into the game.
MARIA GROSS: For NPR News, I'm Sylvia Maria Gross in Kansas City.
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