Blog Response #4

Ben Hubert 

Title: "The Digital Divide Continues "

URL: <http://weblogg-ed.com/>

Blog Post: The New York Times reports that Hopes for Wireless Cities Fade as Internet Providers Pull Out and that is not good news for the kids most affected. Basically, because of Earthlink's problems, tens of thousands of people who were promised access will most likely be cut out.

But the excited momentum has sputtered to a standstill, tripped up by unrealistic ambitions and technological glitches. The conclusion that such ventures would not be profitable led to sudden withdrawals by service providers like EarthLink, the Internet company that had effectively cornered the market on the efforts by the larger cities.

And of course, it's the kids who get affected the most.

Now, community organizations worry about their prospects for helping poor neighborhoods get online. For Cesar DeLaRosa, 15, however, the concern is more specific. He said he was worried about his science project on "Recent and archival news about global warming."

"If we don't have Internet, that means I've got to take the bus to the public library after dark, and around here, that's not always real safe," Cesar said, seated in front of his family's new computer in a gritty section of Hunting Park in North Philadelphia. His family is among the 1,000 or so low-income households that now have free or discounted Wi-Fi access through the city's project, and many of them worry about losing access that they cannot otherwise afford.

And in general, we continue not to lead.

Mr. Meinrath said that advocates wanted to see American cities catch up with places like Athens, Leipzig and Vienna, where free citywide Wi-Fi is already available...Mr. Meinrath pointed to St. Cloud, Fla., which spent $3 million two years ago to build a free wireless network that is used by more than 70 percent of the households in the city.

But there may be some potential solutions on the horizon:

Meraki, a wireless networking company based in Mountain View, Calif., has jumped into the void in San Francisco with a program it calls "Free the Net." The company sells low-cost equipment that can be placed in a person's home to broadcast a wireless signal. The company also sells inexpensive repeaters that can be placed on rooftops or outside walls to spread the original customer's signal farther. The combination of the two types of equipment creates a mesh of free wireless in neighborhoods. The company says it has almost 70,000 users throughout San Francisco.

Still frustrating to me that this isn't on the radar in this political year.

(PS...This is a test of the blogging function in Diigo. Not sure if I can easily add tags. If you want to see my highlights and notes on the page, log into your Diigo account and click on the story link above.)

 

Blog Response: Since there is a demand for internet service nationwide, there's bound to be more ISPs, such as Meraki, entering into the market and replacing the old, crippled ones with better service and inspiration. Could we copy the European model with the $3 million setup for citywide wi-fi? Sure we could, if local city councils, the state government, or just maybe the federal government paid for the setup without killing the local residents (that is, the lower and middle classes) in the process. If students lost internet access, then that dampens their ability to gather better information from the net. In addition, teachers would be less able to assign more interesting and challenging homework assignments that create more meaning and originality for the students. Cesar DeLaRosa, for example, is a fifteen year old who wants to study new reports on Global Warming for his science project. Without the internet, how can Cesar quickly get the information he needs to present his project with accurate information? Unless he's able to get the paper sources fast enough, he can't. While companies such as Meraki come in to continue internet service is a comforting thought for everybody, but the time it takes for one to collapse and another to get setup can mean a lot, in terms of the quality of education in students' lives.