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Google turns down Rosedale’s Wi-Fi idea

Google has turned down a Kansas City, Kan., neighborhood’s plan to tap into the ultra-fast Internet connections promised by the Internet company and create a kind of Wi-Fi cooperative.

Michael Liimatta, co-founder of local nonprofit Connecting for Good, said Google told the groups involved that the idea wasn’t in line with planned licensing agreements for the new product, Google Fiber.

Google says the new service will deliver speeds of up to one gigabit per second, allowing for downloads about 100 times as fast as the national average and uploads 1,000 times as fast. Google announced in spring 2011 that it was coming to this market, choosing Kansas City over more than 1,100 other communities that begged to be first. Since then, it has said very little about what it is bringing to town.

Connecting for Good partnered with the Rosedale Development Association on the plan to share those speeds among residents of the community, which has several low-income housing developments and no central library or community center.

Even though the Rosedale proposition was more conceptual than concrete, development association president Wendy Wilson said the group didn’t want to hold off on coming up with a plan to incorporate Google Fiber into the neighborhood. Everyone was waiting for Google to do something, Wilson said, but the company was encouraging the community to come up with ways to offer Internet access to more people.

Connecting for Good co-founder Rick Deane said the group wasn’t terribly surprised that the plan for a co-op didn’t work out — the whole idea was “exploratory.”

“The plan that we came up with was theoretical at best,” Deane said.

Google has not said what it will charge for the service, other than it will be comparable to what consumers pay now for Internet access. It has also not said which neighborhoods will get offers first — other than it will be in Kansas City, Kan. — or how fast it expects to spread across the market.

The Internet giant has said that getting more people online is one of its goals.

“Digital inclusion is a priority for us,” said spokeswoman Jenna Wandres. “That being said, we haven’t yet announced specifics about Google Fiber product offerings, and it’s premature for any organization to make any plans around specific networking components.”

Liimatta said the group is still pursuing plans for an “e-community center,” a central hub where Rosedale residents can get online and learn more about using the Internet. As currently planned, the center would also showcase office space to attract entrepreneurs seeking the speeds Google Fiber offers.

Plans are also still in place to seek funding from the city and the Kauffman Foundation, among other sources, Deane said.

And if it ultimately means that part of the Rosedale plan won’t use Google’s new service, Liimatta said, there are other ways to get the bandwidth they need for that part of their project.

“We’re still committed to doing this, and I hope Google is still behind us with the e-community center,” Liimatta said.

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