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Will Digital Divide in Kansas City Exacerbate its Historic Racial Divide?

The competition to determine which communities in Kansas City will qualify to receive Google Fiber, the nation's fastest internet service, has stoked fears of increasing the city's historic patterns of segregation, reports John Eligon.
September 11, 2012, 7am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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When Google announced that it would pilot the nation's fastest internet service in Kansas City, many in the city's poorest communities saw hope in increased opportunities for education and economic development. But when the company unveiled how the program would roll out, with "only those areas where enough residents preregistered and paid a $10 deposit would get the service, Google Fiber," those hopes were dashed, and replaced with fears that the city's racial and economic segregation would be exacerbated, rather than healed.

"While nearly all of the affluent, mostly white neighborhoods here quickly got enough registrants," reports Eligon, "a broad swath of black communities lagged." According to Eligon, Google and local organizations have been active in trying to register disadvantaged neighborhoods. But, "As of Sunday evening, only about 32 percent of people in the neighborhoods that qualified for Google Fiber were black, while just over 54 percent were white, according to [Andrew Beveridge, a sociology professor at Queens College in New York City]."

"In some neighborhoods, residents feared that if the service were unavailable in their communities, property values would drop and their schools and hospitals may fall further behind those in affluent areas. Businesses that rely on technology might shun their communities, they said, denying them jobs and economic development opportunities." 


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Published on Sunday, September 9, 2012 in The New York Times
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