Digital Innovation

Google Fiber

Google’s first ultrahigh-speed Internet experiment is demonstrating what connectivity can do for a community. In late 2012, Google outfitted Kansas City, Mo., with broadband Internet 100 times faster than the average connection, charging customers $70 a month. The advanced speeds have nurtured the fledgling tech community in Kansas City, attracting new entrepreneurs and earning it the name “Silicon Prairie.” Civic groups in Kansas City also worked to ensure that minorities and low-income neighborhoods weren’t left behind. Next up, Google Fiber is going to Austin, Texas, and Provo, Utah. Analysts hope that the Google project will inspire other broadband providers to step up their game.

City of Riverside Digital Inclusion Program

In 2007, Riverside, Calif., outfitted 54 square miles of the city with free public Wi-Fi as part of an aggressive effort to lure high-tech companies and jump-start economic development. But city leaders also wanted to ensure that all of Riverside’s residents could take advantage of the investment. With funding from a Microsoft grant, the city launched the Digital Inclusion Program, which provides eight hours of free PC training to families with incomes under $45,000. At the end of the course, graduates receive a refurbished computer and a modem that lets them connect to the city’s Wi-Fi network for free.

Chattanooga’s GigTank

Residents of Chattanooga, Tenn., have long benefited from an ultrafast Internet connection—the city’s publicly owned utility, EPB, rolled out a fiber network in 2010 that offers speeds 200 times faster than the national average. That capacity is a natural draw for entrepreneurs, but the city didn’t stop there. Last year, civic groups launched the GIGTANK, a 12-week incubator that accepts a handful of businesses a year. The entrepreneurs relocate to Chattanooga, where they develop their products and have the opportunity to pitch to investors and corporate partners. The GIGTANK also awarded $100,000 to the business whose product best utilized the program in 2012.

Navajo Internet to the Hogan Project

The digital age has threatened to leave behind the Navajo Nation—250,000 members fanned out across 27,000 square miles. Many do not have access to a telephone, much less the Internet. In 2007, the Navajo Nation launched the Internet to the Hogan Project to address the problem, using existing radio towers to outfit the tribe’s 110 chapter houses with a network connection that could then be used to create a wireless connection in nearby Navajo dwellings known as hogans. Once fully connected, the Navajo Nation will use the network to provide distance learning from major universities, after-school Internet access for schoolchildren, and e-commerce options for Navajo artisans to sell their renowned jewelry.


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