On a recent business trip I was stranded in Kansas City, MO while winter storms played with the plans of travelers and airlines. My rescheduled Saturday afternoon departure allowed me an opportunity to make a field trip to the Google Fiber Space. I imagined a Kansas City version of a Cambridge-like space like the Microsoft NERD Center or the Venture Café at the Cambridge Innovation Center. As active as I am with Mass Innovation Nights and Boston / Cambridge meetups, I’ve never been to Google in Cambridge.
Kansas City taxis are not accustomed to navigating the gauntlet of post-snow storm roads and there’s no standing rule that every business should shovel their sidewalks immediately after a storm to encourage commerce. When the driver pulled into the Google Fiber Space address that I got on Google maps it reminded me of one of those Comcast offices in a strip mall where you drop off your cable box when you move.
Upon entering a friendly guy welcomed me and inquired how they could help me. I self-identified as a visitor who had read about the Google Fiberhood and wanted to learn more. He kindly asked me my zip code. 02138. He paused with a baffled look when he tried to record it. Yes, I hail from a place with a zip code that starts with zero.
A nice young lady appeared and offered to show me around. The large greeting screen made a nice introduction and an adjacent table displayed things that looked like cable boxes, a few chrome book computers, a Galaxy device. Instantly recalling Bob Garfield’s “Comcast Must Die”, I couldn’t decide if I was in the mode of picking up cable box and ISP equipment or heading into a cool tech space with den-like couches just a few strides away. For the record I like Comcast.
I had just shared an article in a training session that explained how Google does “scan” your gmail to offer a better search experience, but it doesn’t “read” your mail.
In the course of the tour I learned how Google was using good old fashioned community organizing tactics to build critical mass to lay down fiber in specific micro-neighborhoods, “fiberhoods”, and how non-profits and community services would benefits in the form of free Google Fiber services.
So now my email provider, default search engine, and brilliance behind my droid smartphone is also now a cable/internet/phone company that also makes Chrome computers that lots of smart people really like. And Google is mobilizing residents to gain critical mass to lay down fiber in Kansas City. More stereotypes of people hating on their cable companies keep popping into my mind. Yeah, and that Google self-driving car?
I’ve been home a week now and while waiting for the Red Line inbound at Harvard station there was Google running video ads on the recently installed MBTA video monitors.
Their cute rabbit mascot is designed to convey friendliness and speed. I’m just not sure why I’m uneasy about this. Maybe you’ll share this with Google+ or comment.