Unwiring Community

If you live in Minneapolis, WiFi 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

Check for changes and details here.

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