Google Project Draws Startups to KC; Extremely High-Speed Internet Service Is Attracting Entrepreneurs to 'Silicon Prairie,' despite Some Hurdles

Article excerpt

KANSAS CITY, KAN. Inside a small bungalow on the street separating Kansas City, Kan., from its sister city in Missouri, a small group of entrepreneurs are working on their ideas for the next high-tech startup, tapping Google Inc.s new superfast Internet connection that has turned the neighborhood into an unlikely settlement dubbed the Silicon Prairie.

The home on State Line Road is one of several startup-friendly locations that have sprouted up in Kansas City in recent months. The catalyst is Google Fiber, the search-engine giants fiber-optic network being tested in the Kansas City area that advertises speeds of up to a gigabyte per second a rate that massively exceeds the average Internet speeds at homes hooked up with cable modems.

The advantage here for startups is simple: A fast Internet pipe makes it easier to handle large files and eliminates buffering problems that plague online video, live conferencing or other network-intensive tasks. Though the Kansas City location presents challenges for startups, including the ability to raise money outside the traditional Silicon Valley venture capital scene, entrepreneurs like Synthia Payne believe its the place to be right now for up-and-coming tech companies.

Payne is one of those entrepreneurs hoping to launch her startup dream an Internet subscription service for musicians who want to collaborate online on the cheap. She shares the State Line Road house, known as the Home for Hackers, with other startups under a deal that allows them to live rent-free while they develop their business plans.

Googles network was attractive, Payne said, because her business plan is dependent upon really good, really fast Internet.

Without this onramp here, I probably would have found it very difficult to come here, said Payne, who in December moved from Denver to develop CyberJammer.

Residents here were thrilled when Google announced last year that Kansas City, Kan., and neighboring Kansas City, Mo., would be its test bed for Google Fiber. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company spent months and unknown sums installing optical fiber around the area. Google provides the full gigabyte service for $70 a month and its own cable-TV like service for an additional $50. A slower Internet connection is free on a monthly basis after a $300 installation fee.

The first homes were installed with fiber optics in the fall, with more fiberhoods planned in stages over the next several months. Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., remain Googles only fiber market, though the company has said it plans others.

Many in the tech industry believe Googles move could ultimately force broadband providers to accelerate their networks to compete. Making Internet access faster would give the company more opportunities to attract traffic and sell more advertising the main way Google makes money. …