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Bridges: It’s time to prepare for Google Fiber

Now that we know Google Fiber is coming to the Triangle, it’s time for small-business owners to start thinking about what that might mean for the future of their companies.

This isn’t just about new opportunities. It’s about the high-tech community and competitive environment that it’s going to create.

Google Fiber will essentially create a virtual playground filled with opportunities just waiting to be discovered. However, if you don’t plan to jump on the futuristic bullet train, you might get left behind with those using flip phones and dail-up Internet.

Aaron Deacon is watching the evolution around Kansas City, the first area to get the ultra-high-speed fiber network in 2012.

Deacon has a front-row seat to the innovation as managing director of KC Digital Drive, a leadership network helping Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., mine technology solutions for public benefit from the Fiber network.

“We do a lot in healthcare and education and government services,” along with exploring small-business economic development opportunities and addressing the digital divide.

When Google first announced it was coming to Kansas City, the emphasis was on residential.

“There wasn’t a business-level package, and they wouldn’t actually build out to a business address,” Deacon said.

Businesses started moving into residential areas, and other professionals started working more from home. They used faster service for video conferences or to wrangle massive digital files, videos and images.

Then the startup villages began to pop up.

One of the first neighborhoods to get Google Fiber happened to be where there were a few businesses in a one-block radius, Deacon said.

“That is actually the Kansas City Startup Village,” now, he said. “They actually have their own branding and steering committee.” Other startup pockets followed.

Last summer, Google started testing a small-business service, which is only available in select areas in Austin, Texas and Kansas City. For $100 per month, small businesses can get super-fast internet service and an optional static IP address. (It’s not clear whether and where the business service will be available here.)

Now is the time to start thinking about what you can do differently, from enhanced content marketing to more video chats.

Owners should also think about what it means to serve an area where people have high-speed capacity at their homes.

“That is when you start thinking about customer service calls, or the fact that you could stream video from the inside of your restaurant,” Deacon said.

The rub may come in for those who are already behind in using tools such as social media and other technology and opportunities.

“In some ways it is going to essentially widen the gap between those whose know how to use the tools and those who don’t,” he said.

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