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Kansas City and Google Fiber

I get a few questions about Google Fiber, because I have Kansas City connections, and I work in computers. People who’ve known me long enough know that I upgraded to first-generation DSL about 30 minutes after it became available at the apartment complex I lived in at the time. The question then was the same as the question in Kansas City now: What do you do with an Internet connection that fast?

Well, for starters, there’s this novel idea involving the public library…

[I]f the library keeps the software on its computer and lets you tap in, Photoshop is yours. On an ordinary Internet connection, working with such bulky programs and large photo files remotely becomes so clunky as to be impractical. Over gigabit connections like those coming from Google Fiber, it’s as though the library’s computers were suddenly yours.

“It’s just putting the software in front of you,” said David LaCrone, the library’s digital branch manager. “You’d see your 8-year-old computer do amazing things.”

That’s one of several ideas in the Kansas City Star this week. Who needs Photoshop? It’s a rare week that I don’t see a problem somewhere whose solution involves Photoshop, or Illustrator, or some other costly piece of Adobe software. And for most people, that solution is out of reach. Most people don’t have $1,000 to spend on software that they may not use very often, and they’re probably not comfortable spending $35 an hour to rent computer time at a copy shop to fumble around with a piece of software they’re not familiar with.

But if they can borrow computer time from the library, the cost vanishes, and they can learn a new skill. A skill that has applications in the workplace. Some of the creative people who can suddenly learn a skill they couldn’t previously afford will be able to get better jobs now. Some will start businesses. It’s even possible that at some point, large publishing companies will open offices in Kansas City–or relocate completely–because a disproportionately high percentage of the population there has advanced knowledge of graphic design tools like Photoshop.

Don’t laugh. No other large city in the country is trying anything like this.

And that’s just one possibility. If it doesn’t pan out, something else will. The more likely scenario is that several of these possibilities will pan out. Look at Google, for example. Today Google is one of the largest companies in the world, but its business model didn’t exist prior to high-speed Internet being commonplace. Google’s non-search products of today weren’t possible on dialup Internet connections–the overhead was too high for them to be usable. Who would want to sit and wait 30 minutes for a web page to load?

And the longer Kansas City is the only place that has Gigabit Internet, the bigger Kansas City’s advantage over the rest of the United States will be–because the rest of the world is going to head this direction, too. The average Internet connection speed in South Korea and Japan is more than twice as fast as the average connection in the United States, and Japan’s average is increasing faster than ours is. We invented the Internet–literally–but 11 other countries have faster access than we do now.

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2 thoughts on “Kansas City and Google Fiber”

  1. I think Adobe Photoshop is a dead end. The idea of the library loaning software has a certain charm, but the licensing method that Adobe uses with Photoshop make such loaning very, very difficult if not impossible.

    I think the patrons and the library would be better served if GIMP, the free, open source alternative to Photoshop were made available instead.


    1. If the software is running on the library computer, with your computer only acting as a display, there’s very little Adobe can do about it. That’s what the article is talking about doing. It’s impractical to connect via RDP and run software on a remote computer over my 10-megabit Internet connection, but at gigabit speeds, it’s tolerable.

      Point taken regarding Gimp, but there are very important things–like color matching with Pantone–that Photoshop will do that Gimp doesn’t, and probably never will. And besides that, having Gimp on your resume gets you nothing, but having Photoshop on your resume will get HR people’s attention. The library knows the difference.

      And besides, people can already get Gimp. There’s no need for the library to be involved at all.

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