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.
“Many of us, myself included, signed up for Google two years ago on the strength of commitment that when we signed up in the spring, in the fall we’d have Google service,” he said.
But two years later, Fowler said many Northlanders are still waiting. Others are frustrated at how Google handled installation, damaging existing infrastructure in its quest to install fiber optic cable.
“Not only is this separate and different because it’s Wi-Fi, but if it’s successful – because it’s just a test – it will allow us to expand access with less intrusion in our infrastructure,” said Councilman Kevin McManus.
Councilman Quinton Lucas also tried to persuade Fowler.
“So I see it as basically – I know it’s going to be terrible in how I put it – but we’re just attaching a widget to a light pole,” Lucas said. “That’s it for today. Fundamentally, that’s why I think we should be in support.”
Even Mayor Sly James chimed in.
“I understand your angst on fiber to the home,” James said. “This is Wi-Fi for the general public, and hopefully something that could be used to extend connectivity beyond the digital divide.”
Google plans to experiment with frequencies not yet accessible on consumer electronics. Even if the tests are successful, it could be years before Kansas Citians can get the Google Fiber speeds they’ve become accustomed to at home over wireless.
Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.