Tim McKee, Olathe Chamber of Commerce CEO and Economic Development Council member discusses the big development for his small town.
KCB: Olathe is one of the fastest-growing cities in the state. How did this play a role in Google Fiber choosing Olathe and how will Google Fiber play a role in Olathe’s growth in the future?
Tim Mckee: From Google’s perspective—I’m not sure what they looked at in regards to deciding Olathe over other cities in the beginning—but I assume that our growth did attract them to our community as they looked at this from a residential standpoint because we are growing faster than any other community in the metro. Over the last 20 years we have averaged an increase of three to four thousand people every year and so our residential growth is, I would assume, very attractive as they’re looking at marketing to residents.
In regards to what Google Fiber provides for us, I think it gives us a leg up on other regions. Omaha, St. Louis, Denver, Tulsa, Oklahoma City—They don’t have this and it may be quite some time before they do, which makes Kansas City that much more attractive.
KCB: What does the timeline of implementation look like?
Mckee: I’ve heard estimates of anywhere from 18 to 24 months, but we don’t know for sure. There are still a lot of details to be worked out.
KCB: Part of Google Fiber’s philosophy is providing affordable Internet for populations who may not have been able to access it otherwise. Is this vision also important for the community of Olathe?
Mckee: It is, very much so. We have older parts of Olathe where income levels are diverse. We haven’t seen Google’s pricing structure or how they’ll roll it out, but I’m hoping that it will be an opportunity for people across all income levels to have access to faster Internet service.
KCB: Will Google Fiber be available to local businesses in Olathe? To the nonprofit sector? To city government?
Mckee: I assume any home-based business would be able to tap into it, but right now companies don’t have access to it. Hopefully, that will change in the future. It will be available in residential areas, school districts and the city, but I haven’t heard that it will be rolled out to non-profits as of yet. As part of this deal, our city government will have Google Fiber. In regards to providing high-speed Internet for the masses, all our libraries, from what I’m hearing, will have access to it as well. The general population can also come in and do research and other things like that at the library.
KCB: Will Google Fiber be implemented in the Olathe School District, and, if so, how do you see it benefitting the educational system?
mckee: We are being told that it will be implemented within our schools. Once again, having Google Fiber throughout the Olathe School District makes Olathe that much more attractive. It will help Olathe quite a bit and it will set us apart from other school districts across the state and across the region.
KCB: The Olathe Chamber of Commerce website states that part of its economic strategy, called GrowOLATHE, involves “economic gardening,” or supporting local businesses by connecting entrepreneurs to resources and infrastructure, therefore creating more jobs. How is bringing Google Fiber to Olathe part of this ideology?
mckee: A lot of GrowOLATHE’s effort is with small business start-ups and home-based businesses. So the fact that Google Fiber is being rolled out in a residential standpoint means that a lot of the home start-ups will have access. So they’ll probably benefit from this more than larger companies like Garmin and Terracon, in that they will have access to it sooner rather than later.
KCB: How will Google Fiber improve connectivity within the Olathe community?
Mckee: As a city, we recently won some awards for being one of the most high-tech cities. I think that plays into this because it just gives more broadband access and higher-end broadband access to everyone within the community. Beyond any of our neighboring cities throughout the region or the country, we now have high-speed Internet maybe up to 100 times faster.
KCB: Provo, Utah and Austin, Texas were recently selected as Google Fiber cities. What does this mean for Olathe?
Mckee: Nationwide, people think of Austin as a high-tech and progressive community, and so the fact that Kansas City or even Olathe is in that discussion says a lot about us and pushes us more towards that type of community. I think people think of Austin as a kind of cutting-edge community and now people will think of Kansas City and Olathe in that same way.
KCB: Other thoughts on this major development?
Mckee: This is a big opportunity for the region and, like I said, I do hope that eventually they’ll roll it out to the business community. It also makes it that much more competitive in regards to some of the other broadband providers. That’s really what this is about, pushing other broadband providers to offer the same service, which will benefit the consumer in the long term.