Kansas City, Google Fiber, and the Great Divide


On the left is the Missouri side of Kansas City, with a Time Warner Cable truck in the driveway. On the right is the Kansas side, with a Google Fiber truck installing service in a building being used to house a number of new startups.

For those of you not familiar with Kansas City, it’s an interesting metro area where two distinct municipalities – the Kansas side or “KCK”, and the Missouri side, known as “KCMO”.  The city is literally divided by a street called “State Line Road”, and that’s where I took the above picture.

In practice, the two sort of blend together to make one big city.  For the most part, residents move from one to the other in the course of their day without really even noticing.  There are even state universities with local campuses that offer in-state tuition to residents of the metro area on both sides of the line.

What’s in a Line?

One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed since moving here five years ago is how cable/broadband services operate.  Time Warner Cable spans the entire metro, but the Kansas side has the benefit of a couple smaller players in the cable market.  Even though I currently have Time Warner, I benefit greatly from these competitors.  How? TWC is drastically different on each side of the line – both in price, and service.

When I first moved to town from Omaha, I had to start a job immediately. I didn’t have time to house hunt for my family first, so I rented a temporary place of my own on the Missouri side, close to my employer.  Setting up cable was a nightmare.  It took three scheduled appointments, with the infamous four-hour windows, before they actually showed up and installed the service.  That was just for internet, which is a simple as it gets.  No set-top boxes or routing cable to multiple rooms.  And it was relatively expensive.

It took 3 months to find a place on the Kansas side for my wife and kids to move down as well.  When the big day came, I called TWC on a friday to inform them I’d need service switched over on monday.  They promptly gave me an appointment to make sure I wouldn’t go a day without service in the new house.  And I didn’t.  To top it off, I called them an hour before the appointment to ask them to throw a TV package on as well, and they were more than accommodating.  I don’t remember the specifics, but even with adding TV service, the monthly rate went up very little if at all.

And Then There Was Fiber

It would be fun to say the Missouri side finally got its fair share with Fiber moving to town, but Google chose to focus on the Kansas side for now.  And thus, the picture.  I was walking back from lunch today, down State Line Road itself, when I saw a Time Warner truck sitting in a driveway on the Missouri side, and a Google Fiber truck sitting in the driveway of “Homes for Hackers” on the Kansas side.

It’s amazing to see how one company (Time Warner) can treat people on opposite sides of a street so differently, purely because of the presence/absence of competition.  Believe it or not, it’s what makes me a hardcore capitalist.  Competition raises the bar, and it can come from anywhere seemingly overnight.  Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a nine-to-fiver, or somewhere in between, the lesson here is “do your best”.  Don’t make it so easy for somebody to swoop in and put you out of business because you were resting on your laurels.

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