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Kansas, the World's First Gigabit City

In 2011, Kansas City was the first city in the US and in the world to get Google Fibre resulting in a 1 Gigabit network. Google embarked on building Kansas City’s gigabit internet access service to help make internet access better and faster for everyone.

Members of the ESB Fibre-to-the-building Project team travelled to the US in 2013 to meet with similar companies who had deployed these fibre networks in Kansas.

The ESB team met with an electricity company, EPB, and the main players involved in the Google Fiber rollout in Kansas. Here are the learnings of the roll out and of what 1 Gigabit can do for a community.

How their dream became real? The former mayor of Kansas City, Joe Reardon negotiated the first Google Fiber development agreement in the US. Kansas successfully competed against over 1,100 other cities in submitting proposals.

Kansas City Board of Public Utilities also successfully negotiated with Google about access to their infrastructure for the fiber roll out. Google Fiber then divided Kansas City into 200 “fiberhoods” that involved over 1,200 buildings. 

A 1 Gigabit network unlocks endless possibilities for small businesses.

Kansas City is once again proof of how a fibre optic network attracts new businesses and sparks local tech scenes. Hanover Heights, home of the Kansas City Startup Village, was the first location in Kansas City to receive Google Fiber. Today, this Kansas City Startup Village is an entrepreneur-led, grassroots initiative helping to bolster the Kansas City entrepreneur and startup community.

As Joe Reardon notes “there was a desire for creative entrepreneurs to be around one another.” Entrepreneurs of all types now come to the neighbourhood. ‘Homes for hackers’ was also established offering 6 months free rent to people as well as free high speed internet to locate within the Startup village.

A French cloud computing company, chose to locate its North American base in Kansas city because they saw this innovative dynamic going on there and they wanted their company to be a part of it.

There were large parts of the city, however, where people didn’t understand fully what it meant to be part of the digital economy. And so, the group “Connecting for Good” was created. The first of their projects was for two public housing areas; here they joined the wi-fi networks together so that residents in those areas could get access to the internet at no charge.

Libraries were also established where young people were encouraged to learn digital photography. Here they were asked to take an honest look of their neighbourhoods in order to suggest new visions of what their neighbourhood should become.

Kansas City has shown how fast, reliable broadband directly helps communities such as schools, clubs and committees to reach out, advance, connect online and kit as community.

As former Mayor, Joe Reardon, acknowledges: “”

“Connecting parts of our city digitally at gigabit speeds actually had a chance to connect us personally as well.”

Joe Reardon
Former Mayor, Kansas City

There was also a collective effort to turn the fibrehoods green. Young people got engaged and became ambassadors. They met with community groups, local organisations and are helping to act as advocates for the installation of 1 gigabit architecture.

Life has changed dramatically since 2011 in Kansas City. And now in Ireland, in May 2015, SIRO was launched to deliver a 100% fibre optic broadband network with speeds of 1 Gigabit for the first time to communities all over Ireland.

SIRO fibre will be delivered using the ESB’s existing overhead and underground infrastructure. We are learning from other Gigabit networks from all over the world. It’s exciting. But what the communities and entrepreneurs think of doing once SIRO is up and running is going to be even more exciting.