“In the 20th century, businesses would look at a town and see if it had an exit on the interstate [to decide to locate there],” says Patrick Lucey, a researcher and one of the authors of a recent report on internet connectivity by the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute. “In the twenty-first century, they’ll look for a fiber-optic network.”
The connection uploads just as fast as it downloads, which is both rare and essential for companies or individuals that work with large amounts of data. Telemedicine— the practice of doctors treating patients remotely over an Internet connection— is one such area, and the Google Fiber project could potentially turn Kansas City into a center for that industry, according to Ryan Weber, president of KCNext, the Technology Council of Greater Kansas City. Telemedicine is considered one potential way to reduce the cost of healthcare.
Kansas City beat out more than 1,100 other cities to win the Google project. The company said the enthusiasm of residents won it over. The company is using a similar metric to decide who gets Fiber service first: neighborhoods that express the most interest by pre-registering will be the first to be wired.
This isn’t the first such network in the US. Morristown, Tenn. and Lafayette, La., have it. High-speed Internet has brought thousands of high-paying jobs to Bristol, Va. and a startup incubator to Chattanooga, Tenn. Unlike most Internet service, those cities run their networks as local utilities like electricity or water.
Fast Internet speeds are potentially so important for the economic future that residents of Leverett, Mass., voted in June to finance a similar project, even though it will raise property taxes there by approximately 6 percent.