Upon learning of Google’s intent to make gigabit-speed internet connectivity widely available in Kansas City, KS, a friend of mine took the words right out of my mouth: “Think about how much faster gun stores will be able to talk to liquor stores, even if they are next door.” It is hard to imagine the Kansas City that time forgot being somehow transformed into The Towwwn Of Toooomorrowwww! because of this.

But both Google and city leaders are talking about the gift of gigabit speed like it’s the deus ex machina to end all of KCK’s social and economic woes:

What color is the sky in their world? Faster internet speeds are a welcome improvement anywhere, but what gets me are these fantastical claims about the extent to which it will improve quality of life.

KU Medical Center is an obvious winner here, because they have the technology to make use of a gigabit link right now. KCK itself, as it exists today, not so much. The resultant attraction of new business will undeniably be good for the city over time, but even a high speed data network is no cure for a depressed city’s problems with crime and sub-par schools. No, students will not perform better in school because the building has a fast internet link. Things that make test scores go up are improved conditions at home, better nutritional and exercise habits, etc.

Any improvement in quality of life most KCK residents might see, even as an indirect result of Google’s intervention, would not be realized for a decade at the very least, and that is an eternity in IT years. So it is hard to believe a company like Google is really in this experiment for the long term. In ten years’ time, Google – if it even exists under that name – could conceivably have a mission wholly different from where it claims to be headed today.

I do think Google will be around for a long time, but I also get the impression they are hoping for results that cannot be achieved within their attention span.