One of the original things people got excited about with the Google Fibre roll-out in Kansas City was that the free fibre option would help reduce the digital divide, and also created broadband envy among those cities and countries that are still to experience a Gigabit connection.
Wired is highlighting a problem that is repeated in many cities around the world, and that is that broadband roll-outs can actually increase the digital divide. In Kansas City the divide appears to be developing along decades old socio-economic divides, and while the $10 up front payment to show an expression of commitment is only a couple of dollars more than the cost of a McDonald's meal, it seems requirements for those paying to have a credit or debit card, Google wallet and a Gmail account means that the digitally excluded were very unlikely to sign up.
Access to the free fibre service, requires payment of an install fee of $300, which seems small to many, but when the minimum wage is $7.25 this is more than a weeks salary for many. Not all Google Fibre services require the install fee to be paid, their is a $70 per month service, that is around the price of existing services in the area, which for UK residents used to seeing broadband promoted for £5 to £10 a month will seem incredibly expensive.
Google are doing this Kansas City roll-out on a commercial basis, but it will be interesting to see how the pressure of universal access plays out, and whether high levels of take-up will encourage the firm to push deeper into those areas were expression of interest was lower, but may also benefit more from a service.
The map of which areas of Kansas City has been taken offline by Google now, as the registration scheme has finished, with the lucky areas being announced on Thursday 13th September.