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Wireless Networking Hardware

Using WiFi to Bridge the Digital Divide 338

Posted by timothy
from the doesn't-even-take-much-of-a-grant dept.
andori writes "CNN is running a story about how WiFi is enabling low-income residents Internet access. The project is set at a public housing development in Boston, Massachusetts. Residents buy the WiFi NIC, and the access if free. It is nice to see people making an effort to expand the reach of the Internet to a broader audience."
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Using WiFi to Bridge the Digital Divide

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  • FP! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jennifer Ever (523473) on Monday February 24, 2003 @02:59PM (#5371912) Homepage
    Will this do any more than free dialup access did?
    • Re:FP! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Smallpond (221300) on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:02PM (#5371943) Homepage Journal


      Its more convenient than dial-up for people who don't have a phone.
      • Of course a lot of people, including the poor, are cellphone only these days.
    • Re:FP! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by WallsRSolid (591098) on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:12PM (#5372024)
      This is a legitimate point, which is incredible for a first post.

      Anyhow, it seemed that free dialup failed because it was a) too slow, and b) had way too many ads. I suspect this will be more successful, as these aren't such a problem.

      Re: poor people not having computers. Often there are families who recognize that they should hop onto the technology bandwagon, for themselves or for the sake of their children. What prevents many of them from investing in technology is the monthly fee of a net connection, not so much the initial cost of the computer.

      Unfortunately, these poor people will probably pay the windows tax since they don't have the kind of computer experience and education to use linux, which would ironically be much more enabling to them.

      ----
      e+ ----><---- e-
      Fatal Attraction
      • Re:FP! (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Jennifer Ever (523473)
        Anyhow, it seemed that free dialup failed because it was a) too slow, and b) had way too many ads. I suspect this will be more successful, as these aren't such a problem. True, but then, how long until that changes?
      • Re:FP! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Cokelee (585232)
        Anyhow, it seemed that free dialup failed because it was a) too slow, and b) had way too many ads. I suspect this will be more successful, as these aren't such a problem.

        I think it failed more because the Internet advertising market plummeted--drastically. I used a Frisp and I couldn't keep the company from going under. They were the first to bust when the dot com world did.

    • I would think about low-cost dial-up, not free.

      Since people still have to by the 802.11b card (lets say $100), I find it hard to believe that they are too poor to afford $5/mo. dial-up internet access.

      I think people would be better off if a company gave extra discounts on dial-up service to families that showed documentation to prove their low-income status. That gets rid of the problem of free-loaders, and does more than this will.
      • 1. 802.11 cards are quite cheap. $40 is quite plausible, esp. with rebate. 2. A one-time $40 or $60 committment may be easier for some to swing than trying to set aside a fiver every month. Especially if your income source is variable, and payment methods are inconvinent/unavailable. 3. Where does dialup go for 5.00 a month? Cheapest locally is 10-12.00 per month.
    • Here is How (Score:2, Interesting)

      by 0spf (574535)
      I am hoping to do something similar in my school district to help bridge the divide. The plan would be to place WiFi nodes on the schools in low-income neighborhoods. Have WiFi laptops that are configured to connect to these nodes available for the kids to take home for the night. The laptops would be used in class during the day and in homes at night. Our bandwidth usage is only heavy during school hours. The fiber connection from the schools to the gateway is already in place. We would place vlan restrictions on the port where the WiFi is connected to limit access to the gateway only, and time of day the port is active. All I need is some cash from TitleI.
  • by MikeXpop (614167) <mike.redcrowbar@com> on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:03PM (#5371945) Journal
    Now not only the people in rich neighborhoods get free internet! I love my neighbors, and their 802.11b wireless internet =D
    • Re:That's good! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by digitalsushi (137809) <slashdot@digitalsushi.com> on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:51PM (#5372409) Journal
      We lost a customer that way about 8 weeks ago.

      Tech: How can I help you?
      Customer: I would like to cancel my account.
      Tech: Ok... [procedure] And if I may ask, why are you leaving us?
      Customer: Yeah, I got wireless internet access.
      Tech: Oh? There's a wireless provider in your area?
      Customer: Yep- my neighbor's offering it.
      Tech: Goodness, we had no idea- what is the name of their business?
      Customer: Oh he ain't no business, he doesnt even know I'm using it. Anyways, thanks, goodbye

      We were all astonished that someone would steal like that and then tell the truth to one of the few organizations that would actually bother figuring out who was letting people leech like that unknowingly...
      • Customer: Oh he ain't no business, he doesnt even know I'm using it. Anyways, thanks, goodbye

        We were all astonished that someone would steal like that and then tell the truth to one of the few organizations that would actually bother figuring out who was letting people leech like that unknowingly...


        "Well, Mr. Customer, we are sorry to see you go. Just in case you might change your mind, we will continue your email account for two weeks for free. If you decide to come back, your email will still be running normally."

        Then watch your logs to see what IP connects to pick up his mail!

        Or, "Well, we hate to see you go, but before you do, why don't you test your new connection with our special connection testing website, and make sure you really are getting a good bitrate..."

        Then watch your logs for hits on your "special" website... :-)

  • true (Score:4, Funny)

    by Joe the Lesser (533425) on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:04PM (#5371956) Homepage Journal
    "Many people point to issues of democracy and public participation and dialogue, and having access to what the Internet brings is really important, she said."

    I agree. Pr0n is important.

  • I do that now.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xchino (591175) on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:04PM (#5371957)
    The apartments I live in are inhabited by a bunch of broke ass young adults such as myself. Me and 7 or 8 of my geek friends in this all pitch in on a leased line and then operate a WiFi hotspot for anyone in the apartment to use.

    The problem we run into most is still the cost of the hardware. For people who don't make alot of money, getting started can really take some sacrafice.
  • Free Porn! (Score:4, Funny)

    by steelerguy (172075) on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:05PM (#5371969) Homepage
    Isn't it a fundamental right to be able to d/l porn?
  • by maxbang (598632) on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:06PM (#5371977) Journal

    This rules - another way we can keep information free to all, especially to people who can use it to improve their lives. Someday broadband will be a reliable public utility.

  • Just Great! (Score:2, Funny)

    by bastardman (631862)
    With projects like these it is no wonder that there are millions of newbies trying to play online games. Just the other day some newbie told me he could kick my ass in Quake 3... well one thing lead to another, and now he's dead. Moral of the story, some people shouldn't be on the internet.
  • Wow! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by delta407 (518868) <slashdot@nOSpaM.lerfjhax.com> on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:07PM (#5371985) Homepage
    U.S. Department of Commerce data from 2001 indicated that 78.9 percent of people in families making $75,000 or more had Internet access, compared to 25 percent of people from households earning less than $15,000 a year.
    What a breakthrough! It seems that people below poverty level are more concerned with survival than Internet access -- who would have thought? ...how much did that study cost?
  • Wireless Anarchy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blocsync (320897) on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:09PM (#5372001) Homepage
    Allowing free access like this seems to have the potential for chaos. Accountability for who is doing what over the connection would be a painful process at best. Hopefully they'll incorporate some type of authentication with a pre-registration required, even if it is free, just to create a sense (even if it ends up being false) of accountability.
    • The whole deal with the internet and slashdot is anonymity and the right to privacy. Why would we want to feel more accountable, or care about feeling that way. Especially when you are talking about the free speach aspect of the internet. Then less accountability is better. I don't want people to know that I just posted that my neighbor is a drug dealer to help get him run out of the complex, especially my well armed neighbor. Granted that is a little contrived, but you get the picture. Free speach is all about anonymity, or the ability to be anonymous if one wants to be. Without it, most discourse, political discourse especially, would be dead.
      • I don't want people to know that I just posted that my neighbor is a drug dealer to help get him run out of the complex, especially my well armed neighbor.

        I think that's one of the things wrong with current society -- the ability to anonymously "tip".

        I Googled on "know your accuser" and came up with the following [arabmedia.com] , which states:

        What Are My Rights?
        The most basic (and the most important) rights common to citizens and aliens alike are the following:
        - To freely practice one's own religion (or no religion).
        - To speak one's own opinions to anyone (as long as one does not suggest committing a crime).
        [...]
        - To face one's accusers in court if tried.

        The problem is we have draconian laws for activities that are not morally wrong. Selling drugs is exchanging goods (for which there is a demand) for payment. Prostitution is exchanging a service (for which there is a demand) for payment. Laws should only prevent activities which have a victim, like murder, rape, or theft.

        Drug dealers are only armed because we have laws against dealing drugs. Your local alcohol dealers aren't armed these days, are they? (Well, I'd imagine they are to prevent robberies but they don't go shooting each other over turf -- any more; they did back when alcohol was illegal.)

        This is turning into a rant, but the main problem is we create laws that turn a victimless activity into a felony, and then we have to set up anonymous tip lines in order to prevent (legitimate, imho) payback. It turns the world into a police state. (PATRIOT goes a lot farther though...)



        Back on topic: I think this is a great development and if Intel successfully puts wireless capabilities in every chip they sell I think we'll see a huge increase in community-based, free services. Internet link, even telephone and cable could be "free" (although there are issues with paying for the content, especially if ads are stripped).

        • If you are tried for a crime in court, it is very easy to face your accuser. The accuser is society, as represented by the prosecutor. Drug dealing and prostitution are crimes against society. If you cannot see how they are harmful to society, then you are ignoring the obvious. Crack whores are not happy, productive people, let me tell you. Victimless crimes do not exist.

          In all criminal cases, the accuser is the prosecutor, who presents evidence against the accused, which may include testimony from victims. Victims at best are witnesses. The judicial process makes it easy to face the accuser (prosecutor) and all the evidence against you. Including anonymous tips. What do you think happens to those tips anyway? They are followed up by the police, again an instrument of society, and if you are charged, it will most likely be with better evidence than just the word of an anonymous person. Even then, you are allowed extensive opportunities to defend yourself in a court of law.

          Since you think it is unfair that you are not allowed to do things which benefit you at cost to all of society, and are also not furnished with the names of the people who turn you in (for payback purposes), I am inclined to think you belong in prison. However, you are probably much too cowardly to commit any crimes and merely enjoy furtively posting to slashdot in a rant against the rule of law.
    • Re:Wireless Anarchy (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Elwood P Dowd (16933)
      Hopefully they'll incorporate some type of authentication with a pre-registration required, even if it is free, just to create a sense (even if it ends up being false) of accountability.

      The internet provides no accountability in any case. The caught number of hackers is dwarfed by the uncaught. Providing poor people with anonymous internet access is probably safer than providing it to the idle rich (college students).

      If you're insecure, you can't rely on every ISP in the world to be helpful or vigilant. Not because they shouldn't be, but because they are not.
  • by hackstraw (262471) on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:11PM (#5372017)
    I carried my ass to a library for internet access.
    • From the article...

      a resident poll found that virtually all participants used the computers to read news, learn about health and housing, or to shop online.

      I love welfare type systems, keep 'em poor and keep 'em consuming, that way they won't bother me!
      • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:29PM (#5372212) Homepage Journal
        I look at it this way. Johnny noshoes wants to learn Oracle so he can move in the world. He's smart, but was dealt a lousy hand. He can:
        1. Take classes, although he can't afford those official classes and the local community college doesn't offer anything like this
        2. Buy a book at the local bookstore for full price ($$$).
        3. Buy the book online at a nice (20%) discount ($$)
        Johnny has just bettered himself[1] and saved a bit of money in the process. Isn't that what the internet is all about?

        If someone is poor because they are fiscally irresponsable, do you think the Internet is going to leave them worse off than they were before?

        [1] Technically he isn't a better person until he actually sits down and learns the skills, but that is beside the point.
        • by alkali (28338) on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:45PM (#5372365)
          Just out of curiosity I checked to see if the internet grocery delivery service in Boston [peapod.com] takes food stamps. It doesn't, and it probably will never, but it wouldn't strike me as the worst thing in the world if it did. If I were a single mother with a couple of young children, I can easily imagine that I might do a better job buying cheaper, healthier food online than in peron at a grocery store.
        • If someone is poor because they are fiscally irresponsable, do you think the Internet is going to leave them worse off than they were before?

          I guess a lot of it is frame of mind. There's been a couple of years in my life where my SSI statement says that I've made less than 10k or so, but I've never really considered myself poor. I guess because I always knew somehow that I would get out of it.

          Also, I have never known someone to be poor because they were fiscally irresponsible. Broke maybe, but not poor.
        • "If someone is poor because they are fiscally irresponsable, do you think the Internet is going to leave them worse off than they were before?"
          Two words for you. E. Bay.

          Cheers!

      • Things are often cheaper on the internet. If they're going to buy them anyway, it makes sense to help them save money in the process.
    • by alkali (28338) on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:39PM (#5372302)
      I carried my ass to a library for internet access.

      Well, what's cheaper: maintaining a staffed piece of real estate containing a PC (i.e., a library), or just dropping an antenna on top of a housing project?

      Now that I think about it, providing welfare recipients with broadband access may well be the most cost-effective way of getting them the information they need most: where they can get a job, where they can get housing outside the public housing system, what's going on at their kids' schools, medical information, local news, etc., etc. (Some Harvard students set up a program to do online tutoring [harvard.edu] for Boston high school students; by all accounts, it seems to work pretty well.)

      If a welfare recipient had to have one "luxury" appliance, a broadband-equipped PC seems like a reasonable choice. It would be far more justified than any other similarly priced item I can think of.

      By contrast, the amount of money spent on Boston's public access cable programming [bnntv.org] is massive, and is entirely wasted.

  • by boomgopher (627124) on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:12PM (#5372028) Journal
    but I really doubt this will be very useful in improving many low-income families lives. I mean, sure, having Intenet access is fun and all, but I mostly see it being used for music-sharing, IM, and porn.

    There's always a few people who really take an affinity to tech, and will run with it, and maybe start a career, but they'd probably do it without WiFi.

    Anyways, my point is the money could probably be used better somewhere else, either in the USA or elsewhere in the world, like the countless refugee camps throughout Asia and Africa, where people have really fucked-up lives.
    • So boomgopher sez:

      "Anyways, my point is the money could probably be used better somewhere else, either in the USA or elsewhere in the world, like the countless refugee camps throughout Asia and Africa, where people have really fucked-up lives. "

      Ohm yeah, the pittance involved in this project will REALLY help the all those poor soids in Asia and Africa.

      Why, evenly distributed, we could probably send a single Meal, Ready to Eat pouch to every single one of those refugees. Once. Of course, this doesn't include the actual costs of shipping the MREs to the camps.

      Look, you're a bleeding heart doofus with no idea whatsoever about the costs involved in this project and the expenses involved in aiding all those refugees.

      The WiFi project wouldn't cover the cost of any useful aid prokect in Asia or Africa.

      And as for the poor in America, this money IS being used to help the poor. Just because you are a meatsack who is only interested in MP3s, pr0n and IM, don't assume that you are representative of the people this project is helping.

      I speak from experience. I've been involved in some projects like this, and I can tell you that a poor family that has access to the Internet does not use it for MP3 and pr0n. The kids use it for schoolwork, the parents use it for everything from education to downloading supermarket coupons. Seniors, particularly the housebound, use the net as a way to keep in touch with friends and family, along with education and entertainment. As an antidote to lonliness, it's pretty damn good.

      This is a good thing! I really hope that Boston will expand this to the rest of the public housing infrastructure.
    • I have to agree with you. If the purpose of bringing Inet access to low-income families is to help them in their situation then the money could be better spent elsewhere.However, bringing Inet access to a school where the majority of students are low income would not be a bad idea. Teach them how to use the Inet and encourage the student's curiousity and maybe a path would open up to somewhere else besides the 'hood. Of course this requires a good teacher who gives a fsck and good luck finding that in a poor school where teachers/authority_figures priority is just surviving to see tomorrow.

      btw, if you want to do something about the rest of the world where people have really fucked-up lives read eveything you can about Fred Cuny ( the good and the bad, he was murdered in Chechnya IIRC ) and use your tech skills to make a difference. WiFi for emergency comm networks in disaster areas anyone?
    • by octalgirl (580949) on Monday February 24, 2003 @08:26PM (#5375058) Journal
      but I really doubt this will be very useful in improving many low-income families lives. I mean, sure, having Intenet access is fun and all, but I mostly see it being used for music-sharing, IM, and porn.

      What a pathetically closed-minded response. Maybe that's what you use it for, but there are so many, uncountable numbers, that need access for education and research, and they really don't have time for games like you obviously do.

      As someone who has worked in public schools for several years now, I can tell you, without a doubt, that it is the poorer kids who stay after school, or show up first thing in the morning, just so they can have access to a computer. The rich kids get to go home and hang out in their cushy bedrooms, waiting for Mom to yell 'Dinner's ready.'

      School gets out around 1:30/2:00 for most US secondary schools, but I maintain a policy that as long as kids are willing to stay and work, I will stay and keep the lab open. I am often there until 4:00 or 5:00 each and every day, and these kids are working their butts off, occasionally emailing friends, but they are certainly not wasting their time downloading music or surfing for porn. I find it quite heartbreaking that they have to stay after, day after day, just to type a paper, or finish a presentation, or work on their personal web project, when others have access willy-nilly and get to do what they please.

      And what about the elderly? I pity you when you age, because you will really have no clue. They now have access to health information and subscription plans. Are you aware how many low-income elderly (and most of them are) pay close to 1000 per month in prescription just to stay alive? Do you care? How about getting sick, being told you have prostrate cancer? They can now log on and share their fears with dozens of others. Retired military - groups and messages everywhere, a time to reminisce and swap stories.

      Don't ever belittle technology, especially here, and say it is just for music and porn, and most especially don't ever say that is all the poor will do with it.
    • but I really doubt this will be very useful in improving many low-income families lives. I mean, sure, having Intenet access is fun and all, but I mostly see it being used for music-sharing, IM, and porn.


      Music-sharing, IM, and porn are all ways to better someone's life. (if you think porn isn't, recall that it has the same effect as Viagra, which is often covered by health insurance)


      Anyways, my point is the money could probably be used better somewhere else


      Perhaps, but the fact is that it won't be used somewhere else, because people are unwilling or unable to apply that money elsewhere. Given that, it's nice that it can be used here.

  • Now how about free internet for the middle-class? eh? eh? C'mon, I live out in the sticks and the fastest internet available to me is 56k :( GIVE ME BANDWIDTH!!!!
  • Rural Poor? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    What about the millions of poor Americans in rural areas who have no chance at 'high speed' internet access? Are we now going to give them DirecWay dishes?
    • Give each rural dwelling a WiFi repeater node, and the signal can daisy-chain its way back to the nearest ISP-equipped town. Well, conceivably it could, anyway.
  • Free?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HMV (44906) on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:18PM (#5372094)
    Free as in no cost for the end user, maybe.

    "The project, mostly paid for with a $200,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation and supported by companies like Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft as well as public and nonprofit entities..."

    So we have evil corporations, nonprofits, and public (funded by you and I) entities. The label "free access" sounds as if the bandwidth fairy visited Boston last week.
  • Nice to see (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:19PM (#5372099)
    that we are giving our underprivilaged free access to steal music and download porn. This won't greatly improve anyones life. The internet isn't some savior of the masses, a neccesity, or even a really useful tool. For people that do business on the internet it is useful, to everyone else it is just a pretty neat toy. These are low income housing dwellers that can't even afford a place to live without it being subsidized. I am not saying we shouldn't give them internet access for free, that is a nice gesture. But will it really affect their lives positively? Do we need to herald this as a great thing? We have just subjected a whole new batch of people to spam that were previously unaffected.
  • by Nikk Name (649179) on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:19PM (#5372100)
    With WiFi, the poor can take advantage of the many wealth-building opportunities provided by the Internet, ranging from multi-million dollar gifts from Nigeria to sure-thing casino accounts to free university diplomas.
  • Appropriate use (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CromeDome (184915) on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:20PM (#5372114)
    While I think this is a good idea for a lot of reasons, I have to wonder what precautions (if any) are being taken to ensure that these free connections are being used appropriately. I don't think a good use of this would include file swapping, online games, pr0n, and the like. I'm sure others would agree with this.

    "Residents can buy wireless cards for their desktops or laptops. The cards, which can cost up to $100 retail, will be given away to the elderly and sold for $60 to others."

    I'm not a low income household, but with a full-time student (wife) and kid to feed, it's sometimes hard for me to cough up money for extra hardware (and I'm not what most would consider to be a low income family). I would hope that these people have their own priorites straight before venturing into this. I also hope their welfare checks aren't buying them wireless NIC cards.

    • Re:Appropriate use (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bfree (113420) on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:47PM (#5372387)

      I'm curious? Why exactly are online games and pr0n NOT a good use of something like this? File swapping ... well if they want to be safe from any potential copyright violations carried out on their network then I guess you could drop this BUT personally I wouldn't see the point of setting up a free network to "bridge the digital divide" if you are then going to retain a gap! Surely any defence of file sharing must be especially appropriate to low income households? I can only assume you would like to ban file sharing, I wouldn't!

      Secondly, while I agree that they should have their priorities straight before they venture in, I don't see why they shouldn't spend their welfare check on a wireless NIC if they have them straight and can squeeze out the cash!

    • I disagree (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sacrilicious (316896)
      I have to wonder what precautions (if any) are being taken to ensure that these free connections are being used appropriately. I don't think a good use of this would include file swapping, online games, pr0n, and the like. I'm sure others would agree with this.

      Then perhaps my attitude will surprise you, because I don't agree. I don't think the poor should be denied porn, online games, or file swapping, nor should they be forced to download what you or others think should be "their priorities". I think they can figure out their priorities for themselves. I'm not saying they should be beyond the reach of the law, but I and many other people do all three of the mentioned legal activities and don't really see the moral difference per se between myself and someone who makes a smaller paycheck. How should we feel about the fact that Bill Gates has decided that we shouldn't be using our computers to play "untrusted" media? I don't think his billions entitle him to dictate what we should be doing.

      I do understand that equipment and time are being donated to these folks, but I see the internet as an expressive medium. I think of dictating what they do with it as similar to building them a community theatrical stage and then telling them they ought to only perform plays that espouse George Bush senior's "family values".

      I also understand that there may be some resource contention between those who are intended to benefit, and that hogging by some may be to the detriment of others. This should be addressed through resource allocation technology, and not through content monitoring or social engineering.

    • Keep in mind that low income housing does not equal being on welfare. They're living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, and it's likely that a lot of these people are employed. In fact, being employed it likely a stipulation of their rental agreement if the landlord is serious about rejuvenating the property.
    • What do you use the internet for? I use it for file swapping, online gaming and porn all the time. And I see nothing wrong with that. Sure it costs me around $50 a month, but I can get more bandwidth out of my wireless connection than my cable uplink. Plus I wouldn't have to worry about government snooping as much as I'd worry about my neighbors, I wouldn't have to pay AT&T or any other telco/monopolies, and I wouldn't have to run any proprietary *cough* AOL *cough* software.

      If everyone has access to the internet at all times this means you have access to everyone at all times. More people online means more customers. More people using and wanting new technology. And many other things that are good for the economy.

      Now if you NEVER ever look at porn or swap files, download binaries, etc. Then I can understand why it would concern you if someone else was doing that, if you couldn't get the bandwidth you needed for your very important tasks. But if you do download porn or data then what you propose is to take away the freedom of the masses to benefit the few. And that has never made sense to me. Since I download porn I'd want everyone to have that same freedom. That is what this network is about, is it not?
  • by nomadic (141991) <.nomadicworld. .at. .gmail.com.> on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:24PM (#5372166) Homepage
    Now they can work crushing hours doing horrible manual labor, then come home after their 12 hour shift and read slashdot, where they'll find out that they're poor because they're "lazy". Great that they'll now have a place to listen to spoiled rich kids whine about how the government steals their money and gives it to all those undeserving poor people.
    • You seem to be one of those spoiled rich kids, who just happens to be "enlighted" and will show us out of the darkness.
      You also must not have spent too much time with poor people, or you wouldn't spewing as you do.
      Most poor people in America are poor for a few reasons:
      1. Bad decisions(pregnant, flunked school, etc)
      2. Lazy(yes i will say it)
      3. Just got off the boat(and if they have a solid family it will usually be just the first generation that is poor)
      4. Incompetent(physical, pysch, etc)
      5. Choice(my sister has little money, but that is because she choose a field in which she makes just 20K; or they simply don't mind being poor, it is not where their satisfaction comes)

      My feeling is a very small % in the US(not true in other countries), are poor because they are brought down by the rich man.

      My observations are taken from living and growing up in various regions of appalachia.

      Of course being poor also needs to be defined more.

  • by Anik315 (585913) <anik@alphaco r . n et> on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:32PM (#5372238)
    All of this may change with things like MIT OCW, but as it stands now the internet is a piss poor medium for education. When I was 12 years old, I used the internet for email, porn, videogames, and conceptually copying reports for school. I suspect I would have been an mp3 fiend if they'd been around.

    Sometimes it bothers me the way people talk about the internet. It takes just as much intelligence and discipline to learn from the internet as it does to learn from books and teachers. It's nice that they're giving these people internet access, but I'm under no illusion that this will help children develop in any significant way.

    • If you think the internet is a piss poor medium for education, you lack imagination. There is a ton of useful information out there; encylopedic sites (whether commercial or peer-effort sites like wiki or e2) and learning sites, about.com, howstuffworks.com, etc etc. Not to mention, you can often find (with a little websearching savvy) sites about other countries, written by a resident of and hosted in those countries, which really brings home to you just how empowering the internet can be when it's not being blocked, filtered, and censored, ala China's.

      The internet is not a free ticket, it will not raise your children any more skillfully than television, but it is an amazing resource for information gathering. If you don't think so, I urge you to write a note or make a tally mark every time you think of something you'd like to find more information about and you could potentially find it on the 'net. The same will be true of children, who have just as many thoughts in their head as you and I, and often more.

      • If you think the internet is a piss poor medium for education, you lack imagination. We're taking about very different levels of edcuation. I've been to a few of the sites you're talking about, and while informative on a superficial level, I would hardly characterize it as professional literature. If I want substantive academic literature/journal articles its hard to find. I'm better off in a library. I suppose I could always pirate Matlab or download some poorly translated Nietzshe though.

        You're implying that I could "educate" myself by reading things off of encyclopedic sites. Well, I disagree. I opened up a Western Civilization textbook last week (for the hell of it), and the internet just doesn't comapare.
        • The internet is not comparable to an encyclopedia set in the sense that it does not have an even amount of information on a wide variety of topics. Some items have been written up extensively, and some things have hardly been mentioned.

          On the other hand, the internet is superior to an encyclopedia set in that it is interactive, and it DOES end up covering some topics somewhat exhaustively, and in greater detail than an encyclopedia can provide. If you need more information on a topic, the internet can help you find an appropriate book on the subject, find out what books your local library has to offer (in the case of most libraries these days) and in general provide you additional leads. Also, many topics of conversation are covered by one or more mailing lists and/or bulletin boards, a feature which is not offered by any encyclopedia.

          You can certainly educate yourself on many topics solely based on what you can find out on the internet, and its value along these lines is only growing.

    • Back in ancient times, people thought that television was going to be an educational panacea and lead to 100% literacy.

      Really. I'm not making this shit up!

  • "My Homies on Broadband!"
  • Wow... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by craenor (623901) on Monday February 24, 2003 @03:45PM (#5372370) Homepage
    I can't believe the number of people I see here who are speaking out "against" wide-spread, free, broadband internet-access. And the majority of the people with something negative to say, seem to be saying it because they don't feel that "poor people" are responsible enough to use the internet.

    You can think I'm over-reacting, but you should just reread some of the messages that have been posted here. I think free, broadband access in the homes of people who can't afford it is just great.

    I think the internet is one of the keys to providing better education and opportunity to those people born into such circumstance that opportunities are rare. Will some people abuse it? Sure...but so? Better they are sitting at home surfing for free porn then some of the other alternatives they could be doing with their lives.

    There have been times in my life when money was tight. Because I haven't always had priviledge, does that mean I'm not responsible enough to have as broad a spectrum of rights and opportunities as others? Open your minds...

    Craenor
  • Will it help? Yes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Washizu (220337) <bengarvey@c[ ]ast.net ['omc' in gap]> on Monday February 24, 2003 @04:01PM (#5372472) Homepage
    A lot of people here are criticizing the plan as a waste of money, but instead of making a cost vs benefit calculation most seem to be implying no benefits at all.

    Anything that gets more information into a poor kid's head sounds like a benefit to me. Even if you only look at improvement in helping a kid with his homework, that's a great benefit right there. I know my childhood would have been a lot different if I had such easy access to information (it wasn't really around until my late teens).
  • Digital Divide, eh? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rkischuk (463111)
    I still don't buy into this digital divide crap. There are plenty of things that low-income residents would like, but can't afford. Since one of the arguments presented in the article is that they can use it to get news. Is there then also a "Cable TV Divide" that prevents them from learning from the news channels and other programming (such as Junkyard Wars and Monster Garage)!

    So long as this remains funded by private industry and charities, more power to them. It's the danger that this "digital divide" concept might be pushed into the social responsibility realm where the perception is that it should be funded with tax dollars. It makes me about as pissed as the moment I realized that some of the subsidized housing here in Atlanta was better than the apartment I was living in - it's not about necessity, it's become something completely different.

    I feel obligated to quote Michael Powell, "I think there's a Mercedes divide. I'd like one, but I can't afford it."
  • I know slashdot has no graphic artists, but they just ripped the tower image from another site. www.skystream.com [skystream.com]
  • Wait a minute... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tvsjr (242190)
    Not that I have anything against the impoverished, but...

    These people are living in PUBLIC housing projects? Housing that you and I pay for with our tax dollars? I'm in a pretty nice income bracket, living in the middle of Dallas, but I can't get DSL because I'm too far from the CO. However, people we have to subsidize by giving them a place to live (among other subsidies) deserve (probably) high-bandwidth wireless Internet access?

    Perhaps we should be more concerned with these people supporting themselves (for instance, paying for their own housing, food, power, etc.) rather than sitting around browsing the Internet.

    I'm sure I'll get flamed, but this is only slightly less ridiculous than trying to get broadband internet into third-world countries...
  • quote from poster...
    "I find it quite heartbreaking that they have to stay after, day after day, just to type a paper, or finish a presentation, or work on their personal web project, when others have access willy-nilly and get to do what they please."
    -------
    That's heartbreaking? That student's have access to maybe $1,000 computers to use for free at school to check email, instant message, and do school work?

    While I applaud the effort to bring technology use and understanding to others, I condemn the ludricrous belief, that giving someone a computer, internet access, etc, will allow him somehow make him technically proficient or better his life.

    Perhaps we should give away free hammers? Then the poor could build their own houses. Or we could give away airplanes, and then the poor can all become airline pilots. The tools are worthless without understanding.

    I can see this benefitting a small group of people however.
    1)Poor families with an older child. The child likely has some technical instruction at school and can bring his knowledge of the computer home to benefit his parents.
    2)Someone who has completed some vocational training and who can legimately justify the cost of computer equipment as a business expense to further their knowledge of office applications.
    3)The home-bounds that due to injuries are unable to work, or unable to leave home, yet still had knowledge of how to operate a computer, or had someone to help them along. THis would enable them to interact with the outside world, keep up on current events.

    And I'm glad to see that part of this includes the party having to buy equipment. We've all seen someone grab something for free (to them) that they couldn't use, just to have it. People who invest in something have some motivation to use it, benefit from it, and keep it working.

    Still, the biggest drawback to a program that gives away technical this or that is always that the people targeted to benefit from it are untrained to use it.

    I had a neighbor who's "cousin" reportedly would get him "good deals". He'd always come home with faxes and 10 year old useless computers and ask me if they were any good, or if he could do this or that on them. They were junk and useless to him. A skilled computer operator could have put them to some use, but it was useless to his needs, and he wouldn't have had any idea how to run the software, even if it had worked on the machine. If he had this offered to him, he would have signed up, bought himself a WiFi card, and then the thing would have sit there when it broke and he couldn't afford to fix it, and didn't know how. Then he'd also be out the $100 that he could have used for a new winter coat, or a decent suit for a job interview.

    Plans like this are neat, interesting, and a great way to look for grants to let you play with tech. However, it's probably not the most efficient way to better the situation of people living at poverty levels.

    When you consider that public libraries, schools, often community centers, provide free computer and internet access to the public, it is almost a vanity to assume that a new plan to give internet access to the poor, as long as they buy a computer, and wifi card.

    And I agree with some other posters, that considering these other options already being available, that public internet access via a WiFi point and targetted towards the poor, might innappropriate use of tax dollars that might be spent on better programs. These funds could be put into more community computer classes at libraries. Funds could be used to provide more training for teachers at school, so that those teachers could provide more technical training.

    And I am involved in technical training at a school in a "poor" neighborhood, so i have given this type of thing quite a bit of thought.

  • York (PA) Dispatch -- January 17, 2003:

    "Closing 'digital divide'
    Crispus Attucks gets $500K to link with community

    By TED CZECH Dispatch/Sunday News

    The Crispus Attucks Association says it's now one step closer to bridging the "digital divide" it says exists in York County.

    Late last week, the association learned it will receive a $500,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

    Crispus Attucks intends to use the money to build and maintain wireless Internet access for York County schools and other area organizations, a plan that dovetails with the association's mission to educate and provide opportunities
    for jobs, said Christina Ginder, director of the association's technology solutions department.

    "So many of our York County residents do not have Internet access for one reason or another -- it could be socioeconomics, or they don't understand computers," said Ginder.

    "The majority of those people surround Crispus Attucks. We want to make sure those people have the same advantages of those who can afford it."

    The new network, based at Crispus Attucks, also will serve residents who live beyond where fiber-optic cables have been installed, Ginder said.

    She said through the network, Internet service will be faster than dial-up or cable modems, with a lower fee than commercial wireless Internet companies charge.

    Area organizations interested in linking with the wireless network include several school districts, the York County Library System and Lincoln Intermediate Unit.

    Obtaining the grant allows the association to purchase computer equipment and install transmission towers, Ginder said.

    Phases: Designing the network -- determining how many and where the towers will go -- will begin when the entities that have expressed interest in the wireless network agree they would like to be a part of it.

    "We just got the grant. We are going around and talking with them right now," said Ginder.

    She said that in York City, a tower may be erected either on top of the Crispus Attucks building at 605 S. Duke St., or at the former Dallmeyer building at 540 S. George St., which the association has acquired.

    Ginder said several school districts are interested in joining the network, although some may have contracts with other Internet services.

    Online in July: She said the association expects to have all of the equipment needed by May, with testing beginning in June and the network running in July.

    That's what Ginder calls phase one, which will be financed by the grant.

    In phase two, the network will be expanded to the outlying areas of York County without Internet access.

    The association hopes to hire someone with wireless experience who can solve network problems, Ginder said."

    I especially like that last part -- "The association hopes to hire someone with wireless experience who can solve network problems."

    GF.

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