KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City, beware the story of Vilnius.
Few if any cities in the world can rival the network of fiber optic cables snaking high-speed Internet through the Lithuanian capital. And yet Vilnius is no tech innovation capital.
There’s a warning in that example for Kansas City as it sits on the cusp of Google Inc. rolling out an ultra-high-speed network here, suggest the authors of a recent report.
“The burden is on us as a community to make something out of it,” said Mike Burke, a co-chairman of the Mayors’ Bi-state Innovation Team.
The team is candid in saying it has yet to identify a killer application springing from Google’s promised service that requires the blinding one-gigabit-per-second speeds the Internet search behemoth says it will bring to homes.
Still, the team’s report argues that interest and excitement stirred by Google’s plans give the metro area a catalyst for finding ways to bolster quality of life in myriad ways by harnessing the power of the Internet.
In its “playbook” for Kansas City’s digital future, the ad hoc panel urges forming a new quasi-public organization so that, in the words of co-chairman Ray Daniels, somebody “gets up every day and says, ‘How are we going to use high-speed fiber?’ ”
The bi-state team suggests the Kansas City area will need to spend more money making Internet access as common as indoor plumbing.
More than two years ago Google announced that it would go to some midsized U.S. city and establish the fastest of consumer Internet networks by stringing fiber optic cables directly to homes. Last spring, the search giant picked Kansas City, Kan. Google said it would include Kansas City, Mo., in its network.
The company has not yet said how much it will charge for Internet service, other than to suggest the cost could be comparable to conventional broadband, which averages a speed 100 times slower.
Even Google has conceded it’s not identifying any particular application certain to come from making fat-pipe Internet hookups routine.
“We can’t wait to see how the Kansas City community will take advantage of gigabit speeds,” a Google spokeswoman said recently.
The company is curious what novel uses consumers and businesses will dream up. There have been no concrete plans yet to transform whatever Google brings into a local economic boom.
That, contends the recent report, puts pressure on Kansas City to find game-changing uses for the Internet.
“High-speed fiber, by itself, is no guarantee of leadership in innovation or economic development,” the report states. “It’s about sociology, not technology.”
Google has not said when the network will be up and running but promises an announcement this summer.