Cleveland Digital Vision
Tuesday, March 23, 2004
OHIO HOUSE BILL 413: Cleveland-area Representative James Trakas is among eight sponsors of Ohio House Bill 413, a new proposal to use telephone company service penalties to fund a state Community Technology Center Grant Fund.

The bill is the brainchild of the Ohio Community Computing Network and State Representative Jon Peterson (R-Delaware), its chief sponsor. It has been referred to the House Committee on Economic Development and Technology, chaired by Rep. Thom Collier (R-Mount Vernon). Initial hearings are expected in the next month or two. The only Clevelander on the committee is Democrat Michael Skindell, who represents part of the city's West Side along with Lakewood.

You can e-mail Rep. Trakas here to thank him for co-sponsoring this important legislation. Rep. Skindell can be contacted here to encourage his support.

P.S. Here and here are pictures of Cleveland community computer center folks at the Statehouse press conference unveiling HB 413 on February 11.
Friday, March 19, 2004
FREE LANE ON THE INFORMATION HIGHWAY? From today's New York Times op-ed page: The director of New York University's Center for Advanced Social Science Research calls for free, universal wireless Internet access.

The WiFi revolution is here. With the technology known as wireless fidelity, laptop users can get onto the Internet and download e-mail, photos and other electronic files from places once well off the information superhighway — parks, truck stops and cafes, to name a few.

That's a wonderful thing, but what's better is that WiFi holds the promise of bridging America's much discussed digital divide — if we make it ubiquitous and free to use, like the public library system. After all, just as roads and bridges were among the most important public investments in the industrial period, wireless access to the Internet is arguably the most crucial public investment of the information age.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004
COMMUNITY TECHNOLOGY REVIEW: The Winter/Spring issue of the CTR is on line and worth a look. Among other things, the University of Massachusetts has begun offering a BA degree in community media and technology. And Andrew Cohill says we're entering "The Third Age of Community Networking":

The "first age" was the early days of CN projects that had a key focus on access, and offered dial-up in many communities where there were no or few ISPs. As commercial dial-up services became more widely available, a "second age" CN focus emerged to provide training, education, and local services, as appropriate. During the second age, infrastructure issues were left largely to the private sector.

But the infrastructure job is not done. One thing that has been lost in recent telecommunications deregulation is the notion of universal access, ensuring that every household and every business has affordable broadband access and affordable services (e.g., email, Web hosting, videoconferencing, blogging, community directories, etc).

The "third age" of community networking will blend some "first and second age" infrastructure solutions with successful communities developing public/private partnerships to get affordable access to more households and businesses. Most community wireless projects will need commercial ISPs to make them viable over the long term. Communities can now make modest investments to help attract commercial wireless providers. They can also make modest wireline investments (e.g., duct, dark fiber, co-location facilities) that will also attract commercial ISPs to light the fiber and bring advanced business and commercial services into the community.

What is really exciting about the "third age" of community networking is that Community Networks can now provide inexpensive, very sophisticated services, including online learning, civic governance forums, "safe" chat rooms for kids, videoconferencing, audio and video streaming of community events, and collaborative work environments for community boards and local committees/commissions, just to name a few. In short, the "third age" of community networking is being characterized by mature computer hardware, mature broadband access, and mature services.

Cohill's "first age of community networking" began right here with the Cleveland Free-Net. Now the One Cleveland project is giving our city a unique opportunity to pioneer the "third age", too.

More from Cohill: The CTR article quoted above was mostly reproduced from Andy Cohill's "news log" posted at his company's website. But the weblog entry goes on to make this interesting point:

Some economists are predicting that as many as 40% of U.S. jobs will be home-based by 2030. This has profound implications for the way economic developers do their jobs. An exclusive focus on business parks and incubator buildings will minimize the effect of ED efforts and marginalize the ability of home-based entrepreneurs and businesspeople to grow their businesses. ED investments in infrastructure have traditionally been oriented toward "big company" needs--water and sewer connections to business parks, highway improvements to faciliate heavy manufacturers, and other types of "big business" improvements. But as more and more business transactions are facilitated by the Internet and goods and services are being delivered by a stream of electrons rather than a stream of tractor trailers on the interstate, community economic development efforts must change to reflect the new realities of the Creative Knowledge Economy.

Is anyone in Cleveland thinking hard enough about home-based businesses as a source of new jobs and income for our neighborhoods? Is this a missing link between "community economic development" and the idea of a "wired city"?

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