Google Fiber Arrives in Kansas City: Do Users Care?

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2012-07-29

Google Fiber Arrives in Kansas City: Do Users Care?

After being chosen more than two years ago by Google as the place to unveil its fledgling Google Fiber gigabit-speed Internet and cable television services, residents of Kansas City are already signing up to be the first customers now that Google has started to take preregistrations.

In interviews today with eWEEK, a sampling of three Kansas City residents said they're excited to get Google Fiber service and that they have high hopes it will be a big improvement over existing cable offerings in their neighborhoods. However, at least one resident said the service won't appeal to her, while another outside the initial rollout area said she can't wait for the service to be available to her in the future.

"We were over the moon when Google first announced that Kansas City was the first city" to get Google Fiber, said Coleen Shaw-Voeks, who lives in downtown Kansas City, Kansas. "We've gone through DSL and cable Internet here [at her house], and they've been slow and unreliable. This was super exciting. I even watched the [Google service announcement] conference call online yesterday, and of course there was lag and it was dropping on YouTube" because of existing cable service shortcomings.

Shaw-Voeks, a private running coach, said she registered for the new service right away. "I didn€™t have to think twice about it."

The Google name immediately gives her confidence in the new service and her bad experiences with other local Internet providers gives her reason to try something new, said Shaw-Voeks.

"I've had a Gmail account from early on, and I was on Google+ right away. I use Google Docs to send weekly schedules to my clients,€ said Shaw-Voeks. I've had no problem with them, and I've had a lot of problems with my current Internet provider, including terrible customer service, so I am looking for any reason to tell them to bug off."

Shaw-Voeks said she's even considering making up some flyers about the new service and distributing them on her own to her neighbors to urge them to sign up so they can be among the first neighborhoods to get service. "I am totally into it," she said.

Jase Wilson, a self-described "civic geek" who was actively involved in lobbying Google to bring fiber to Kansas City, said he's fired up about the project because it will ultimately bring new tech-savvy people and their energy to the region due to the super-high-speed Internet backbone.

"This can bring a lot more than just faster connections," said Wilson. "This will bring people here to live and work. The connection itself is just sort of a catalyst. There's a chance for Kansas City to be on the national radar for a little bit in terms of technology."

Wilson, who builds software for municipal governments for Luminopolis, said he'll be signing up to get Google's Internet-only package for fiber service in his southwest Kansas City, Mo., neighborhood. "If I get the TV package, then I'm not going to ever work," he said.

Another resident, Sonya Andrews, said that in less than 24 hours, more than 13 homes had already signed up for the new service in the first day of registration in her Coleman Highlands neighborhood in Kansas City, Kansas.

Andrews, a graphics and Web designer and illustrator, said she's excited to be able to leave her existing Internet provider, Time Warner Cable, now that Google Fiber is arriving. Her service with Time Warner is slower and not reliable enough for her business, she said.

Kansas City Residents Eager to Try Out Google Fiber

"The fact is that Google has been so innovative and has taken over as the search engine [to use]," said Andrews. "And there's not only Coca-Cola-like brand recognition but the fact that they seem very smart about what they're doing. The way they have been really communicating their plans here with everyone, it leads me to believe that they're going to provide better service."

One key to her pending switch, she said, is that the new Google Internet service will include 1-terabyte of cloud storage in her $70-per-month service fee. That's a bonus, she said, because she is presently paying extra money each month for cloud storage, in addition to her $60 monthly cable Internet bill with Time Warner.

"I think there are a lot of other young professionals in our neighborhood who are experiencing similar issues," said Andrews. "To not have to pay another service fee is a big deal."

Of course, there are no guarantees that it will all work as planned, and she's ready for that, said Andrews. "For me, maybe I won't like it, but it's something different and exciting and innovative. I'm all about being a guinea pig for that."

One nearby resident who's left out of the first Google Fiber hook-up area is Michelle Dover, who lives five miles just outside of Kansas City, Mo. "I can't get it yet," said Dover, "but I can't wait until it expands to my neighborhood."

Dover said she sees several keys to the Google service for her family, including big savings compared to her current $204 monthly Time Warner bill for television and Internet service, much faster performance and what she expects will be superior support and customer service.

"Time Warner is horrible," she said. "The signal goes out all the time, and their customer service is ridiculous. Google would be a great thing for me."

But not everyone is waiting in line for Google Fiber.

Beck Ireland, a resident of the South Plaza neighborhood in Kansas City, Mo., said she's not remotely interested in paying a $10 deposit to preregister under the initial sign-up program. "I guess I'm the opposite of a 'Google evangelist,'" said Ireland, a magazine journalist who is satisfied with the existing DSL Internet connection and landline phone from AT&T in her home.

Even with two computers and a Roku streaming box using the same DSL connection, Ireland said she hasn't had any reason to seek faster service. "I really don€™t use them at the same time, so what we have is just fine," she said.

If service through Google were cheaper than her existing service, that would be great, she said, but that's not the case. "I would like to pay less money, and having Google here, that could happen" through increased competition. "But just to pay them money to show interest in their product just seems ridiculous to me."

After much local fanfare, Google announced July 26 that it will begin installation and hook-ups for Google Fiber in both Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Mo. To determine which neighborhoods will get the first service, Google is asking residents to gather their neighbors together to "lobby" for the first hook-ups through a sign-up competition that will last through Sept. 9. The neighborhoods with higher numbers of preregistrations will be the first ones to get the services.

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