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Google Fiber, Company's New Super Fast Internet Service, May Not Reach Kansas City's Low-Income Residents

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When Google unveiled its new Internet service in Kansas City last month, the company said customers would receive speeds so fast they would no longer need to wait for videos to buffer or websites to load.

But now, many of Kansas City’s poorest residents are in danger of being left out of the ultra-high-speed network, known as Google Fiber, according to the Kansas City Star. The paper reports that many low-income neighborhoods may not qualify for Google Fiber because they have been slow to meet a registration benchmark that Google requires to demonstrate community interest.

Google’s ultra fast high-speed Internet will cost $70 a month, or $120 with a TV package. But the company said residents will also have the option to receive basic broadband Internet service for free after paying monthly $25 installments to cover construction costs.

But deploying fiber-optic cables is expensive, and Google wants to be sure there are enough interested residents to cover the costs before building out its network to each neighborhood.

So the company requires Kansas City communities to pre-register a certain number of households before they can qualify. Thus far, neighborhoods who are meeting that goal tend to be wealthier, while low-income areas have fallen behind and are in danger of not meeting the threshold, the Kansas City Star reported.

About one-third of Americans, or 100 million people, do not subscribe to high-speed Internet, an increasingly vital tool for participating in the digital age, according to the Federal Communications Commission. In Kansas City, a quarter of residents have no broadband access at home, according to Google.

Google could not be reached for comment. But a spokeswoman told the Kansas City Star that 60 employees are trying to sign up Kansas City residents to meet the registration requirements before the Sept. 9 deadline.

In addition, community activists have launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise $5,000 to help low-income Kansas City neighborhoods meet the registration requirement. The fundraising effort -- which has been posted on the civic crowd-funding platform Neighbor.ly -- shows a map detailing which Kansas City neighborhoods qualify for Google Fiber’s rollout and which ones still need to register more residents to qualify. On Friday morning, it was about $1,000 short of its goal with eight days left.

Google Fiber is currently available only to residents of Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., which beat more than 1,100 cities in a competition to be the first to receive Google's new broadband network. The first homes will receive service this fall and all neighborhoods that qualify for service will be wired by the end of 2013.

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