What do you do when as a broadband provider you offer 7 years of broadband services (5 Mbps) for a one-time cost of $300 and some whole communities of people aren’t interested? And actually the initial cost to indicate interest is only a $10 investment.
Google is running up against this situation with their fiber network in Kansas City.
According to the New York Times..
But in July, Google announced a process in which only those areas where enough residents preregistered and paid a $10 deposit would get the service, Google Fiber. While nearly all of the affluent, mostly white neighborhoods here quickly got enough registrants, a broad swath of black communities lagged. The deadline to sign up was midnight Sunday.
Unfortunately for Google and fortunately for the communities, meeting the needs of some of the communities that didn’t step up was one of their big goals. So Google and community leaders set out to get more people to subscribe using some of the following methods.…
- Google workers set up a tent outside the Ivanhoe community center and urged passers-by to sign up, with the center using a private donation to pay the $10 deposits and giving out Rice Krispies treats.
- Myron T. Moore, a neighborhood activist in Ivanhoe, walked door to door with a clipboard asking people to write down their name, address and telephone number so the council could sign them up and pay their deposit.
- Google rolled an ice cream truck through one area, as a woman on a loudspeaker enticed residents to register. Several Google workers walked alongside, answering questions and handing out brochures and ice cream sandwiches.
- Advertisements ran all weekend on Hot 103 Jamz, a hip-hop and R&B radio station, urging people to sign up for the good of their communities, even if they were not going to get the service.
Is this an adoption issue?
This week, the Minnesota Broadband Task Force heard from Jack Geller that the problem of broadband adoption will take care of itself. That we’re nearing the last segment of adoption curve and there’s not much we can do about getting more people to get online any faster than they woudl organically.
Then why is Google having this problem?
Why are people in some neighborhoods unwilling to commit $10 for Internet infrastructure? And are we (the public, providers, civil society, local government) responsible for encouraging them to make the commitment?
I have been wrestling with this article for days now. I think the answer to that hinges on whether you see broadband as a luxury or a necessity. Also I think the answer reflects a view on investment in the future. Who is responsible for investment in the future? Is it up to the individual or the state government, local government, federal government or is investment even necessary?
Part of the battle for Google and the folks interested in Ivanhoe is getting people to buy into the importance of broadband but also getting them to buy into the idea of investment in the future. In a more affluent area, a $10 investment does not feel as costly as it might be in Ivanhoe. Also assuming home ownership is lower in Ivanhoe and other targeted areas, another challenge is asking people in Ivanhoe to invest in a community where they may have no roots and may not expect to remain on a long term basis.
Investment is a big issue – at the household or community level. Are we willing to invest in the future of our household, our community, our state, our country, our world? Everyone’s answer is different.