Profiting from Council’s continued inability to craft effective technology policy, Clearwire, a wireless Internet service provider utilizing proprietary spectrum, has gained a toe-hold in our community.

These days, it’s hard to imagine getting through high school without the Internet.

However, there are at least 100 students at East Chapel Hill High School whose families cannot afford the service.

This number is a big concern for Ginny Guilfoile, East Chapel Hill’s Parent Teacher Student Association president who started a program to provide loaner computers and Internet access for students in need.

“I thought, how would it be if my kid didn’t have a computer,” Guilfoile said. “I knew there were kids that could not keep up with the other kids at East without the Internet.”

The district’s Information Technology Division was able to form a partnership with Clearwire, a high-speed wireless Internet provider.

Ray Reitz, the district’s chief technology officer, explained that by using Clearwire, the need for costly land-line phones or cable is eliminated.

“The cost of Internet access has been the main obstacle. The Clearwire solution is a completely wireless solution,” Reitz said.

Daily Tar Heel, Feb. 28th, 2007

Long time readers know how I’ve promoted the development of a community-owned network to stimulate economic development, bridge the digital divide and increase Town’s operational efficiency.

Councilmember Laurin Easthom has been the only elective leader to-date promoting the cost effective and tactical deployment of this “must have” infrastructure.

“Must have”? Yes, to compete effectively in the global marketplace we need to invest a modest amount in technological infrastructure.

Rider said she has received very positive feedback from the 42 students to whom the program has provided Internet access so far.

“One student told me the quality of her work improved because she had time in between going to school and working on assignments,” Rider said. “Basically they all talk about the same thing – how it was very hard to do their work and how much easier it is right now.”

Guilfoile said that although the program has been successful this year, the PTSA might not be able to sustain the funds needed to continue it unless they find a long-term source for funding.

Only 42 students now out of 100 alone at East covered by the $15,000 in grant money.

What of all the other students and residents within Town that are cut-off from the new Town Commons?

Free access to both information and information infrastructure is critical for our community’s success.

Recently, local activist Ellen Perry pointed out in a thread on OrangePolitics the problem the homeless have when cut-off from communication:

has any one ever thought about helping these folks get social security and a post office box so they could start to help themselves . if people dont have anywhere to get there mail its hard to start to get a check or a medicaid card or food stamps or apply for any of the stuff people have when they have a home.

As last week’s Independent headlined (Bridging the divide
Techies across the Triangle are finding ways to connect people around the world
), more and more services are being directed and delivered via the ‘net.

For a community that prides itself on social justice and intellectual prowess, the continuing failure to bridge the gap is inexcusable.

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