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In an effort to take advantage of expanding local government data capabilities, the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, has hired Alan Howze to fill a new position — chief knowledge officer. The role merges public service, government efficiency, and transparency, several things he is passionate about, Howze said in a Facebook post.

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR 89.3

To an observer, Mahlet Yeshitla is sitting in a chair with a large headset covering most of her face, waving her arms at the empty space in front of her.

But from her perspective, she's using cubes to create building blocks.

“It does feel like you’re in a room, at a table, just building things,” Yeshitla said.

U.S. Department of Transportation

With $40 million from the Department of Transportation, Kansas City would build on the network Google Fiber brought to town five years ago.

That’s the pitch Mayor Sly James made Thursday before U.S. Transportation Sec. Anthony Foxx. Kansas City is one of seven finalists in the Smart Cities Challenge.

“This isn’t about technology,” James said. “It’s not about streets. It’s about people.”

KC Social Innovation Center

Three Kansas City startups will receive a combined $59,000 from the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund to expand and develop programs that promote innovation in the classroom.

KC Social Innovation Center, PlanIT Impact and  Pennez were awarded money for using Kansas City’s gigabit internet to create new ways to learn.

Doing online research is almost required in school these days, but how can you do that without a reliable way to connect to the internet? Michael Liimatta, who manages the ConnectHome initiative for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, says that with more than half of public school kids living in poverty, plenty of people who should have web access still just can't afford it.

Internet-connected water and electrical meters as well as new technology like leak detection in underground pipes means public utility providers now have huge opportunities to increase efficiency. Rolling out that new tech can not only help cut costs and head off expensive failures, but can also create new revenue streams for cities.

Guests:

Once every water and gas meter, light pole, park bench, and parking spot is collecting statistics, just how do you turn all that data into useful information? Allowing access to everyone who wants to see and analyze that data can lead to amazing things, and can change people's relationships with their city.

Guests:

gigabitcitysummit.com

As more and more cities across the United States get access to gigabit Internet, more are asking the question — what do we do with it?

And a lot of those cities turn to Kansas City for help finding the answer.

Neerav Bhatt / Flickr--CC

Google got permission from the Kansas City Council Thursday to venture into high-speed wireless, building on the success of its Kansas City, Missouri, fiber optic network.

The Internet giant asked council members for permission to mount antennas on city-owned light poles to see if it could bounce connectivity off of them.

Though the ordinance ultimately passed, there was heated discussion about whether Google has kept its promises so far in Kansas City.

Councilman Dan Fowler doesn’t think so.

When Google announced in 2011 that it would bring super-fast internet to Kansas City, Kan., many metro residents were eager to sign up. On today’s program, a panel discusses how gigabit download speeds have changed the region in the five years since.

Guests:

Google Fiber

Some low-income housing residents in Kansas City now have some of the fastest Internet in the country — for free.

Kansas City is the first place Google Fiber is giving away its premier service, at no cost to users or the government. That’s because the city has become a primary laboratory in the effort to close the digital divide.

Kansas City was the first to get Google Fiber, and the service came with a promise to help close the “digital divide."  

Lisa Rodriguez / KCUR

Imagine swapping your cubicle for a beach.

For Kansas City-native Shawn Hansen, that’s not a dream — it’s real life. Sometimes that beach is Rio, sometimes it's Mexico — it doesn’t really matter where, as long as he has his laptop and a decent Wi-Fi signal.

Hansen gave up his permanent residence in Kansas City in January 2014, opting instead to travel the world doing freelance writing, technical consulting and teaching English.

There’s a term for people who leverage technology in order to travel freely around the globe: digital nomads.

How many times have you dreamed that your workplace was anywhere but a cubicle in an office? Perhaps a beach somewhere? On this edition of Up To Date, we speak with people who have given up their permanent residence for a laptop, a passport and a travel guide.

Guests:

Having trouble buying something off Amazon?

If you’re a Google Fiber customer, you’re not alone.

Midtown resident Angela Dreher-Bayman was trying to access the online retailer from her family’s new laptop computer last week, but the website wouldn’t load.

“I was trying to secretly purchase some Christmas presents, and I actually thought that it was just bogged down,” says Dreher-Bayman. “It was 7 p.m., so I thought maybe it was high traffic time.”

Frank Morris / KCUR

When Google Inc. selected Kansas City, Kansas, as the first recipient of its ultra-fast Internet network, the news made headlines around the country.

Yet Kansas City wasn't the first to have gigabit service. In fact, we were years behind. Before Google even announced its contest for the first city to get Google Fiber, Chattanooga, Tennessee, already had deployed its own fiber optic network.

We built it ... but will they come?

Capture

Results are in for the recent 48-hour filmmaking contest between gigabit-fueled Kansas City and Chattanooga: Kansas City won.

Association for Visual Arts, Chattanooga

Update, 2:30 p.m., Sept. 17: The Kansas City film office has announced the locations for the Capture community film project's kickoff and screening events.

Registered filmmakers will receive their instructions at 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 18 at the Union Station Boardroom. The resulting films will be screened, and Best Shot and Best of Show awards will be presented, at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 20 at the Union Station Extreme Screen. 

Eric Baker / KCUR

Google will fund two temporary positions in Kansas City aimed at narrowing the digital divide, the company announced Thursday. The people hired for the positions will work to get people in low-income communities online.

Google Fiber came to Kansas City pledging to make the internet more accessible to everyone. It offered very low cost connections in some neighborhoods, but didn’t wire others, where interest in the service was low. The upfront cost of installing Google Fiber made it unattractive for many low-income renters.

When Google first announced its intention to bring high-speed fiber optic cable to Kansas City, Ks., the service was supposed to help close the digital divide. Four years later, we check in on whether access to the internet has improved in the metro.

Kyle Palmer / KCUR

The best way to visualize a school district’s Internet connection may be to compare it to a busy network of highways:

First, an Internet service provider, like Time Warner or Google Fiber, sends in the Internet on one big eight-lane freeway to a district’s main servers. Here, the Internet connection may meet some firewalls and content filters — think of these as tollbooths — and then, the Internet is streamed out to the district’s schools through fiber cable on what you might think of as two-lane country roads.

Frank Morris / KCUR

Increasingly Americans see fast internet as being more like a functioning sewer line, than a luxury. And to that end, a number of cities are trying to get into the internet provider business. But laws in 19 states hamper those efforts. President Obama wants to lift those restrictions.  Supporters of what’s known as municipal broadband can’t wait.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Two years ago, metro-area entrepreneurs started buying houses in the first Kansas City, Kan., neighborhood to get Google Fiber.

They wanted to take advantage of the ultra-fast Internet as they launched new ventures in what quickly became known as the Kansas City Startup Village.

The plan was to create a community of entrepreneurs on either side of State Line Road. But because the two states have different economic incentives for new businesses, many entrepreneurs gravitated toward the Kansas side of the Startup Village.

Neerav Bhatt / Flickr--CC

The Overland Park City Council will vote Monday night on a pair of plans to bring Google Fiber to the Kansas suburb, months after striking a preliminary deal.

Google Fiber walked away from that discussion after several council members asked about liability for city-owned utilities such as light poles, even though they ultimately wanted to approve the plan. 

That shouldn't be a problem moving forward, says Councilman Paul Lyons.

Kansas City was selected as the first place in the country to receive Google Fiber. Now that fiber networks have been established in the many communities in the metropolitan area, users have experienced internet connection that is 100 times faster than typical broadband speeds.

As Google Fiber and other fiber networks expand to other cities we explore how well Kansas City is capitalizing on it's head start and where it might be falling short. 

Guests:

Courtesy / EyeVerify

The Kansas City metro area has become home to numerous tech startups over the last few years, in part because of  Google Fiber, but also because low rental prices and large cutting-edge tech companies that call the city home.

Out of his single floor office space in Kansas City's startup village on 45th and Stateline, in Kansas City, Kan., Toby Rush gives a demo of the mobile phone application he’s developing, and it is like something out of a spy movie.

Courtesy / Connecting for Good

While Google has cast a spotlight on Kansas City that has the country excited about high speed internet, like most cities around the country, access is not equally available.

Internet activists believe that the arrival of Google Fiber has highlighted the so-called digital divide. But Google says it wants to work with the communities and organizations involved in bridging the gap.

Digital training, a life necessity 

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

Long before Google Fiber arrived in 2011, Kansas City has had a thriving technology sector, with cutting-edge companies like Cerner, Garmin and Sprint (whose roots go back to 1899 in Abilene, Kan.). Many of these companies have spawned other technology startups, which you can see on this impressive KC tech genealogy map.

The Roeland Park City Council Tuesday voted to bring Google Fiber, the high-speed Internet service, to the city. Spokeswoman Jenna Wandres says Roeland Park marks the "14th local Kansas City expansion (in addition to the original announcements in Kansas City, Kan.

The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation Wednesday afternoon announced it would manage a fund aimed at bridging the digital divide in Kansas City.

Recent studies of digital literacy in Kansas City have shown a quarter of our residents don’t have broadband at home.  Seventeen percent don’t use the internet at all.

Wednesday’s announcement of the Kansas City Digital Inclusion Fund is aimed at raising those percentages.

Sylvia Maria Gross / KCUR

Google announced yesterday that it’s building a new high-speed fiber-optic network -- this time in Austin, Texas. It’s been two years since the company announced it would build its first fiber-optic network here in Kansas City, and many residents hoped it would be everywhere by now.

Planning for the network has Kansas Citians rethinking the future of many aspects of life and business here.

Ground Zero for Google Fiber

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