Worker adjusting the wireless access point outside my window.
Featured Tag: Wireless
Minneapolis Digital Inclusion Fund Advisory Committee seeks new blood!
In the 2006 negotiations with US Internet (USI) to implement a mesh wireless (802.11) network over Minneapolis, the City was able to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement that included $500,000 in payments to a Digital Inclusion Fund (along with 5% of pre-tax income after the network was up and running). (See page C-1 of the contract.) The money is granted to support non-profit digital inclusion projects in Minneapolis.
So far the Minneapolis Digital Inclusion Fund Advisory Committee (DIFAC) has disbursed $400,000 of that $500,000—$200,000 over 2007 and another $200,000 in 2008. We (I am a member of DIFAC) plan on requesting proposals this year and disbursing at least some of the remaining $100,000.
During 2009, DIFAC finally drafted its rules for governance which includes terms for advisors and a plan to rotate off the current advisors over the next few years. Two advisers will be finishing their terms this year. (I'm one of them.)
We are beginning the application process for new advisors.
If you are interested in forwarding the cause of digital inclusion in Minneapolis, consider applying and download the description and application and send them in by June 1. Details are in the documents.
Update: The application doesn't include contact information. You can send your completed application to Valerie Lee or contact her if you have questions:
Valerie C. Lee
Community Philanthropy Officer
The Minneapolis Foundation
800 IDS Center
80 South Eighth Street
Minneapolis, MN 55402
tel: (612) 672-3849
fax: (612) 672-3846
Minneapolis Unwired: Digital Inclusion Update
I now have forty-five proposals to go through requesting far more than the $200,000 that's available for grants. I think there will be some interesting projects coming along in the next year to help low income and marginalized folk in Minneapolis get to the Internet. Not much more I can say until an official announcement some time before the end of the year.
I can announce our members though. I was shy about that previously as there was no listing available on the web until recently. I planned to check with my colleagues about listing names here after reading Josh Breitbart's post pointing out that we aren't identified anywhere. That has changed and the official list of reps is up at the Digital Access site. (Thanks, Josh. I have a feeling your blog post helped in getting this information out there.)
Read Josh's post. His ideas around horizontal collaboration vs. hub-and-spoke deserve serious discussion. He likes much of what he sees in Minneapolis compared to Philadelphia. But we are still in the development stage, now creating the reality of the shared vision. What is disheartening for me is the minuscule information about the Wi-Fi project itself and the walled/civic garden portals. (I am supposed to be on a committee that is planning the community portals and it hasn't met in months.) The deployment is a month or more behind schedule and I doubt if the network will be completed before 2008. I think delays are to be expected in new ventures like this but US Internet Wireless (USIW) and the City of Minneapolis have not been forthcoming in updating residents as to status. There is a city-sponsored mailing list but little flows through it and there has never been any type of status report even when new neighborhoods are added to the Wi-Fi mix.
USIW and Minneapolis need the community to rally round the Wi-Fi system. Frequent and honest communication is the best way to ensure that engagement.
Technorati Tags: wireless, broadband, municipal, minneapolis, wifi, digital_inclusion
Minneapolis Unwired: Five things we gotta do for success
It would be in the best interest of us all in Minneapolis to take Gigi Tagliapietra's five qualities for success of muni wi-fi to heart. They show an understanding for just how important the Internet is becoming in all of our lives.
Minneapolis Unwired: Muni Wi-Fi Meeting Tomorrow Night
City Wi-Fi Community meeting for Southwest Neighborhoods tomorrow night at Lyndale Farmstead Park, 3900 Bryant Ave. S., 5:30 p.m. to 7.
Whether you live in Southwest or not, you can attend for more information on what's happening with the wireless system.
For more information on this and future meetings, check the City site.
Minneapolis Unwired: Tell us how to digitally include everybody
With little fanfare, the Minneapolis Digital Inclusion Fund Advisory Committee has released it's RFP with responses due by September 14. (Background info on the fund is here and the application form is here.)
I sit on the committee. It is a donor-advised fund of the Minneapolis Foundation. There is about $200,000 available in this round and grant awards will run from $5,000 to $30,000. US Internet will be paying another $300,000 after the City signs off on the network plus a percent of their revenues in upcoming years. Barring unforeseen circumstances, there will be another round coming in 2008.
Here is a list of a few examples of "eligible activities" for funding that the committee put together:
- Supporting technical literacy programs and initiatives
- Developing economic opportunities through digital access
- Using digital access for civic engagement and supporting accessible government
- Using digital access to aid in community and neighborhood collaboration efforts
- Distributing assistive technology to people with disabilities and the elderly to ensure equal access to digital content
- Distributing hardware to low-income households
- Providing relevant and engaging content in multiple languages
- Finding new and innovative methods to spur digital inclusion
- Implementing web-based English language training
- Closing the educational achievement gap between white students and students of color
Many current projects within nonprofits that may not seem digital could actually benefit from a shot of Internet and could easily become an inclusion activity. Look closely at what you're doing. Talk to some Internet geeks. (Most of us love talking about this stuff, especially if you buy the beer or coffee.)
How about a single mom project? Devise a program to provide at-home telecommuting jobs to young single moms. Provide hardware, training and the job itself. Find a corporation to work with and get some matching funds for the digital inclusion money.
How about a community economic development project where you set up an ecommerce server to sell over the Net? Free entry to the server for any qualifying business and then they pay a small percentage of sales. Again, make sure you train everyone in how to use those computers! This would have the potential of funding itself as more businesses became involved.
English as a second language... I have heard that classes are full and there is a waiting list. So use the Internet for some distance learning on demand. Team up with grad students at the U for a research project to provide curriculum and metrics. And budget training funds!
Those are just a few ideas and they are pulled out of my brain. I'm on a committee so you would have to convince us all (or at least most of us) to get anything funded. But the Internet space really lends itself to brainstorming like this because the potential is almost limitless.
I would love to see you add ideas in the comments. Maybe some of my sisters and brothers on the committee will also drop by and and add to the conversation.
Is MySpace safe now, Grandpa?
With the 29,000 sex offenders banished from MySpace, is it safe now? Well yes, just don't let the kids outside and avoid family gatherings.
Stephanie Booth at Climb to the Stars has a really good post that we should all read and then we can ignore the main-stream-media yowling inspired by US state attorney generals. (Thanks to danah boyd for pointing me there and read her stuff too.)
This issue intertwines with both net neutrality and digital inclusion. You can bet the fear of sex offenders will serve the purposes of the telco-cable incumbents who can then offer to protect us if we let them control the Net so they can ensure family-friendly content. And the internet-sex-fear mantra permeating the popular media space will strengthen parent's resolve to keep that Internet stuff out of the house cause it's too dangerous.
Yes, the Web poses danger to kids and they need to be responsible. But the research shows that they're at more risk off the Net than on.
I peed behind a tree in a park once. In some states that's enough to get me sex offender status. Will MySpace ask me to leave now?
Senator Durbin live blogs broadband policy
Tonight and the rest of the week, Illinois Senator Richard Durbin will be engaging in conversations at the OpenLeft blog about US broadband policy starting at 6 p.m. CST (that's tonight's time check the schedule for other nights). Check here for details and instructions on getting an account.
Here's a summary of each night's discussions:
Day 1, Tuesday July 24, will feature a live-blog with the Senator
where we'll be looking to lay out the big picture: how should we
think about broadband policy? How should we be looking at it
differently? What should the key principles for a national broadband
strategy be? It's a big-picture night and an opportunity for folks to
say what they're concerned about, as well as how they think the
Internet (and broadband overall) should operate in the future.
Day 2, Wednesday July 25, will focus on net neutrality and other 'how
the Web works' issues, but indeed, net neutrality will take center
stage. Organizers are hoping we find new frames, new insights, and
new directions for this debate.
Day 3, Thursday, July 26, is going to be about municipal
infrastructure with an emphasis on the use of the public airwaves to
provide broadband. We'll talk iPhone politics, spectrum auctions, and
discuss models for municipal broadband and their implications.
Day 4, Friday, July 27, is going to be more about practicalities in
regards to the provision of infrastructure itself: public/private
partnerships, projects like UTOPIA and Fiber for the Future, Connect
Kentucky, and USF/USDA reform.
Chicago Unwired: Transforming through digital excellence
Michael Maranda and the rest of the Chicago Digital Access Alliance (CDAA) are celebrating the release of the report from the Mayor’s Advisory Council on Closing the Digital Divide. It's titled The City that Networks: Transforming Society and Economy Through Digital Excellence. You can get the Chicago report here (link on the right).
Reading it is in-progress here but already I've found a term that I want to appropriate here in Minneapolis: digital climate:
a state of awareness in which virtually everyone—people, businesses, service providers, government, community organizations and others—fully understands and embraces the potential of technology in everything they do.(This will be the second term appropriated by Minneapolis. The first was civic garden to replace walled garden in relation to portal entry pages on our muni Wi-Fi system.)
After the celebration is over, watch for report analysis at Michael's blog.
Unwired Community Summit
Back in May, I attended the International Summit for Community Wireless Networks and I was honored to be asked to represent Minneapolis's digital inclusion and community benefit efforts on one of the panels: Holistic Planning & Deployment of Wireless Networks.
Josh Breitbart at Civil Defense recorded several of the presentations including the one I participated on.
Here's the direct link to my presentation.
Make sure to check out Robin Chase's description of what's going on in Boston. (It starts 15m30s in.) Boston's plan is to have a nonprofit own the backbone and sell databits cheap to ISPs. They define an ISP as anyone: You, me, your mother. The goal is connectivity for $10/month.
US Internet in Minneapolis is also going to sell accounts to ISPs but there will be qualifications and minimum account buys in the area of 5,000 at a time. Not for the average geek to purchase.
Minneapolis Unwired: Technology Day in Minneapolis featuring Wi-FI
Minneapolis Wireless Update
Minnesota Stories guy Chuck Olsen captured the Technology Day festivities on video. Included is information on the community portal system. This blogger will talk about that soon too.
Minneapolis Unwired: Community Benefits
Ed has a good summary of the community benefits included in the City's contract with US Internet. Also check my home page for links to various documents like the full contract and the original community benefit recommendations.
Happy Technology Day, Minneapolis! Everyone should wear one of those little hats with a propeller on top. The Wi-Fi Wireless Rollout is at 4 p.m. in the Doty Room at the DT library accessible by train, bike, bus or automobile. Bring your ideas about what equals community content.
If you live in Minneapolis, Wi-Fi antennas will soon be marching across pole tops to your neighborhood. By the end of the year (current projection is November), we should be an unwired city.
There is a Community Technology Celebration in conjunction with the Downtown-Cedar-Riverside wireless rollout. This will be on Thursday, June 14, at the Downtown Central Library from 4 p.m. to 6:30.
One of the items under discussion will be creating neighborhood and community portals. I want to urge those of you already working with citizen media (bloggers, podcasters, vloggers) to come and discuss the potentials of actively participating in the larger conversation that we are already enjoying online. We need to begin the process of converting the municipal wireless system into a true community wireless system.
Historically Minneapolis has always had a strong community journalism system. In recent years, the number of community and neighborhood papers has shrunk. Many that remain are often published by a single group that can share staff and publishing costs to cover many neighborhoods. It's just too expensive for every neighborhood to try and afford a newspaper staff.
The Web has reduced publishing to almost zero once you have hardware and a connection to the Internet. The plan is for the community portal system to provide free tools for getting messages out via blogs, news feeds, audio, or video. This will be an integrated system and location specific with your community page displayed when you are in your neighborhood.
Of course hardware and connectivity costs are still an issue for many which is why Minneapolis has established a Digital Inclusion Fund Advisory Board with money contributed by US Internet as part of their agreement with the City. There is $200,000 in the fund now with another $300,000 coming when the network is finished. (I am a member of this Board.)
This Board will entertain proposals to provide Internet access and hardware to all. Potential solutions for the digital divide problem might include computer refurbishing programs, free accounts, or more funding for community technology centers. The Board will also look at training and education for new users and providing relevant multilingual content.
More meetings have been scheduled to coincide with the USIW construction schedule.
- Midtown and South; June 28, 5:30-7, Midtown Global Market
- Southwest, July 19 & August 19, 5:30-7, Lyndale-Farmstead Park
- North, September 13, 5:30-7, Shingle Creek Commons
- Northeast, Oct. 18, 5:30-7, Logan Park
- South & Southeast, November 1, 5:30-7, Nokomis Community Center
Wireless: College Connection in Philadelphia. What are we doing?
Drexel University to Offer Students, Faculty and Staff Access to EarthLink’s Wi-Fi Networks
PHILADELPHIA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Drexel University and EarthLink (NASDAQ:ELNK) reached a first-of-its-kind agreement between a major university and wireless network service provider to extend the boundaries of Drexel’s Dragonfly wireless network for students, faculty and staff to access university resources and services or browse the Internet over EarthLink’s Wi-Fi networks, Drexel President Constantine Papadakis announced today.
As I read the story, students, staff, and faculty will be able to extend their college wireless access to the new Philadelphia wireless network. I would guess that Drexel paid something for this service. I wish they had clarified this.
The access is "for a limited time each month." It also extends to Earthlink's wireless networks in other cities.
Are we pursuing anything like this in Minneapolis? I know that the University of Minnesota is preparing to upgrade the entire campus wireless network. I believe either an RFI or RFP has been issued. This sort of arrangement for students, staff, and faculty would be excellent. (Disclosure: I am a U of MN employee.)
While I'm talking about the U of MN and wireless, I recently found that the U is selling wireless access on campus. I would like to see them provide free access. It would be a great community service and I don't think they will see droves of urban digerati flocking to campus especially since most of the nearby coffee shops have free wireless.
Philadelphia Wireless Update
Web buzz this weekend as Philadelphia approves Earthlink's 15-square-mile proof-of-concept network and Earthlink is going to begin build-out of the 135-sq.-mile system that is scheduled for completion in the third quarter of 2007.
As in Minneapolis, Earthlink is building and managing the Wi-Fi system and will share revenues with Wireless Philadelphia, a non-profit created by the city to fund digital divide/inclusion projects.
Earthlink is offering limited-time promotional rates of $6.95/month for 1 Mbps service and $9.95 for 3 Mbps service (with a 1 Mbps upload speed—why not symmetrical)? The rates will stay in place for the first six months and then go to $19.95 and $21.95 respectively.
US Internet's Minneapolis rates are much higher. There is a current deal of $14.95/month for 1 to 3 Mbps service and $24.95/month for 3 to 6 Mbps service. This will last until the network is finished. After that, basic 1 Mbps service will cost $19.95 and the higher speed will go to $29.95. US Internet does provide symmetrical connections for downloading and uploading. Personally, I'd choose the slower upload speed and lower price in Philadelphia for the 3 Mbps service.
Earthlink has the right idea for getting community buy-in to the service. At $6.95/month, I would definitely try out the wireless system while keeping my current DSL. That's harder to justify at $14.95/month—over twice the Eathlink-Philadelphia rate. Plus my expectations for customer support would be somewhat tempered at $6.95.
Current customer support and network reports are not good here in Minneapolis. Roy, my friend down the block, bought in early here in pilot project land. There were connectivity problems immediately that were finally resolved but now they are upgrading the network and he can't really rely on his connection at all. I would hope they offer him a free month of service for the problems.
My own customer service issue is with an email I sent on May 15 asking about the number of log-ins available with a single account. So far, I've heard nothing back.
Minneapolis Wireless: City plans for portal rollout
Last week at the City of Minneapolis Committee of the Whole: Wireless, Portal, and Community Engagement.
Download the presentation (pdf, 850K).
Michael Maranda discusses community portal ideas and ownership.
Minneapolis wireless portal needs content guidelines
[Update: Garrick starts a conversation. Plus higher res version of the Wi-Fi portal.]
The portal pages for the Minneapolis muni wireless system are becoming a reality. This has been called the "walled garden" in the past and some new terminology out of Chicago has referred to it as a "civic garden."
The portal will be available free of charge if you can connect to a wireless node. You won't need an account. On one level, this will provide information to visitors. On another level, it's free internet for those who can't afford it.
So what should be in the garden?
I'm a member of the portal committee where we will soon (next week) be working on policies for the content of the portal and walled garden.
I'm soliciting ideas.
For those curious, here's the current USIW portal in the 'active' areas (the original pilot project area). As far as I know, you can actively sign up for an account if you can get to this page. There's a 24-hour rate for $9.95 or a 15 min. rate of $3.95.
wireless, broadband, municipal, minneapolis, wifi
Peter Speaking at U of M’s Wireless Cities Conference
Garrick beat me to the post but I'll carry on with my announcement that Garrick and I will be part of a panel at the University of Minnesota Wireless Cities Conference April 16 at Walter Library. Our panel, Media and Wireless Communities is at 3:15. We'll share the stage with Christina Lopez of the U's Digital Media Center; Jeremy Iggers, former Star Tribune restaurant critic and current Director of Twin Cities Media Alliance (parent organization of TC Daily Planet); and moderator Nora Paul, Director of the Institute for New Media Studies. The conference runs two days and the cost is $175 ($75 for U of M attendees).
I think this is going to be interesting.
Required readings... Michael Maranda on bringing folks out of isolation to tell their stories, Doc Searls on the Giant Zero, and Garrick on news by the block.
From Doc's post:
The Net is a giant zero. It puts everybody zero distance from everybody and everything else. And it supports publishing and broadcasting at costs that round to zero as well.
we don't just "deliver information" like it's a Fedex package. We inform each other. That is, we literally form what other people know.
Josh Breitbart's keys to healthy process
Joshua Breitbart has posted his testimony to the New York City Broadband Advisory Committee. He lists some keys to a healthy process for city's seeking a broadband solution:
- Sustain open participation beyond the initial public hearing stage, through the entire process and continuing even a solution is implemented.
- Promote horizontal relationships among stakeholders rather than hub-and-spoke relationships that all connect to this committee or to any one person or organization.
- Unite stakeholders around shared technology rather than dividing them into tiers.
- Incorporate existing human resources wherever possible to avoid redundancy and to build on existing relationships.
- Be open with whatever information you gather: publish documents, test results, and regular updates on an accessible website and make them readily available to people without Internet access.
So far here in Minneapolis, we don't rate highly in relation to these points. The process has been relatively closed.
Minnesota: Rural Broadband
Jack M. Geller, Ph.D, president of the Center for Rural Policy and Development in St. Peter, MN, has a letter at the Hutchinson Leader site: Rural Minnesota shouldn’t be caught on the wrong side of the digital divide.
He looks at attitude changes in getting broadband (vs. dial-up) to rural areas (in 1999, nobody thought much about the issue) and how online activities have changed with faster access. Government and business applications need broadband connections for optimal performance and more and more people are finding personal entertainment and making purchases online.
"The widespread appeal of downloading video and music files, engaging in social networking, watching streaming videos and satisfying one’s personal entertainment needs is hard to overestimate."Very true, I'm sure, but I wish he had mentioned the self-publishing aspect. Broadband is a must for podcasting and video blogging and even text blogging applications (like Blogger) have grown enough to be painful over dial-up, often with dropped connections. Given the practice of the broadband duopoly providing fast service to your home and usually very slow speeds back up to the Internet, this is a point that needs to be pushed again and again and again.
via Minnesota Policy Soup.
International Summit for Community Wireless Networks
The Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network (CUWiN) and the Center for Community Informatics (CCI) will host the International Summit for Community Wireless Networks from May 18-20, 2007 at Loyola College in Columbia, Maryland.
Desperately Seeking Broadband
I'm trying to find reasonably-priced broadband access for a close friend in Santa Fe, NM who is having some health problems and not up to the task of waiting on hold and then waiting some more. Qwest has DSL service for $31.95 (monthly) but they are at full capacity in the area where she lives. She can get on a waiting list. Comcast wants about $60 per month (current special will get her six months for $51.95). Basic cable + Internet is $69.95. That's pricey broadband and she will likely keep dial-up for now.
That may be all of her choices. I think I'm going to try calling the city gov in Santa Fe and see if they know of any other possibilities.
Stumbled on a related article at Doc Searls' Blog.
Tragedy of the Comcast
There is nothing wrong with cable and phone companies making money by providing services. There is something wrong with cable and phone companies treating the Net as a secondary or tertiary service when in fact it is a fundamental public utility.
Digital Inclusion: EarthLink brings access to homeless in Chicago
Wi-Fi Planet reports that Earthlink will provide a small computer lab, Wi-Fi access and a laser printer to 17 homeless shelters in Chicago. Partners include Blackwell Consulting Services, Computers for Schools, and Chicago Public Schools' Homeless Education Department. One installation has opened.
Chicago is currently considering responses to an RFP for municipal wireless. Earthlink is a strong contender.