The following is a recap of presentations by Shawnna Funderburk, Liberty Chief Strategic Operations Officer, and Hailey Kellerstrass, Liberty Parks & Rec Community Services Manager given to the Kansas City Coalition for Digital Inclusion on July 7th, 2023.
Liberty and Google Fiber Partner to Improve City Connectivity
Despite being home to only about thirty thousand residents, the city of Liberty, Missouri is responsible for servicing seventy to eighty thousand through its shops, restaurants and schools. In seeking to improve digital services for those who live, work, and visit Liberty, the city has worked to encourage providers to expand and improve broadband infrastructure in the region. In particular, the city’s ambition is to eventually see not just Liberty but the entirety of Clay County served with fiber-to-the-home. While some neighborhoods of Liberty are currently served by AT&T’s fiber service, the city recently approved a right-of-way agreement with Google Fiber to bring fiber broadband to even more households in the area.
With a right-of-way agreement in place, Google Fiber has now begun working with Liberty’s Public Works department on permitting. Construction on the new infrastructure will likely begin in early 2024, with the entire build likely taking a couple of years to complete. While Google Fiber has not yet announced the locations that will be serviced, they hope to pass as many addresses as possible to make the expansion more economical. While some more rural areas won’t be covered in the initial buildout, future growth could lead to infill opportunities as communities continue to grow.
Liberty Provides Digital Inclusion Programming for Seniors
Liberty’s Parks and Rec department has recently expanded its programming to offer more opportunities for seniors to become more comfortable with digital technologies. This work began several years ago with a program called Techie Teens and Savvy Seniors, where a group of seniors were bussed to a local high school to meet with a club of high schoolers. The meetings had no agenda, but served as opportunities for the seniors to bring in their devices and have the high schoolers answer their questions, improving their confidence in using digital technologies.
The city has also started offering digital inclusion programming at their local community center, which features a silver center that serves around a hundred seniors every day. At a recent lunch, the center had an employee from a local assisted living facility come and give a presentation on Are You As Smart As Your Smartphone. Those attending their lunch were encouraged to take their own phones out and follow along with the presentation. The engaging, hands-on nature of the content led to deep engagement, and after the lunch ended the presenter stayed for more than an hour answering questions. The community center hopes to begin offering more presentations like this at future lunches, and is in talks with the Liberty branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library to do more programming in the future.