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Google Fiber Puts the Kibosh on Startups in Kansas City
by Karl Bode 03:04PM Wednesday Oct 09 2013 Tipped by DustySilicon See Profile
Updated with Google comment at bottom. Google got a lot of press for the fact that Google Fiber lured a number of startups to Kansas City, a number of which were buying homes in the city just to get 1 Gbps connectivity. Particular attention was paid to Startup village, a collection of Kansas City entrepreneurs who created a community of like-minded entrepreneurs in the Google "fiberhood" of Hanover Heights in Kansas City, Kansas.

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While Google nabbed a lot of free advertising in the press for being an innovation engine for businesses (this CNET article from June is a prime example), people eager to follow Startup Village's lead appear to be running into roadblocks.

User DustySilicon See Profile directs our attention to an interesting article over at the Kansas City Star, highlighting a man named Joe Barnhill and his $10,000 attempt to build a similar entrepreneur work/live space in the River Market area of Kansas City, Missouri. After claiming that Google Fiber gave him the green light for the space, he claims Google then turned around and told him he couldn't get wired because he was running a business, leaving his already mostly-finished work/live space hung out to dry:
He added he wouldn't have gone ahead with Spark Centre without what he said was a verbal green light from Rachel Hack, Google’s community relations executive and the face of the company locally...“I explained that I wanted to create the same type of startup environment in the River Market like the one in KCK,” he said, referring to Startup Village, a residential neighborhood straddling State Line Road around 45th Avenue.

An email from me to Hack for her response led to a phone call from Jenna Wandres, a spokeswoman for Google in Silicon Valley. "Rachel claims she did not do that, and she knows it’s against the terms of our service," Wandres said. "We only have residential service now. There is no business service yet."
When asked by reporter Kevin Collison about whether or not this is inconsistent with the messages Google has been sending, Google offers up this response:
"If people are talking about economic development, it’s a fair connection to make," Wandres said. "You can build an app at home. What we’re talking about is, it’s a ripple effect. You bring high-speed service to homes, and you can tell people like that. We’re not trying to be misleading...
Just like the recent hysteria over Google Fiber's refusal to technically let residential users run servers (even though most users still can, provided they aren't constantly pushing terabytes), differentiating your business and residential services is pretty standard operating procedure in this industry. Google takes criticism only because they professed to be a different kind of connectivity from the fine-print riddled services we've come to expect.

Google is working on a business-class service, but hasn't specified a timeline. What about the Startup Village that got an ocean of national media attention for being an incubator for industry? Google says that wiring them was a "mistake," and that if they signed up today they'd be refused service. The company also says they'll be migrating them to Google Fiber for businesses as soon as they have a product available.

Update: I talked to Google and received their side of the story, which is that Barnhill was violating the Google Fiber terms of service specifically with his plans to resell service. He was effectively claiming to service a living and working space -- but omits to tell the KC Star there was no living side of the equation. From Google:
“We spoke with Mr. Barnhill multiple times about his intended use for Google Fiber, and his proposal was explicitly against our terms of service. We are currently only able to hook up homes and all users must comply with our TOS. As we explained to Mr. Barnhill, the proposed Spark Centre did not comply with either criteria; not only was the intention to resell Fiber service to Centre tenants, but there was also no residential use planned for the unit."

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Washington, DC

2 recommendations

What makes something "business class" service?

My own opinion, is that it's ridiculous for an ISP to discriminate one kind of packet from another. It costs Google nothing to let people run servers . Taking action due to spam/copyright complaints is fine, but a regular business isn't going to generate complaints.

"Business class" service should provide more support and up-time guarantees, but there's no reason to put artificial limits on residential service. I fault all the big ISPs for that kind of policy.

Karl Bode
News Guy

5 recommendations

reply to Koil

Re: What a crock of shit, Karl

I am deeply ashamed.