Assistance for Achieving Connectivity
While a big challenge back in the 1990's, Internet access has now becoming the rule rather than the exception ... except in smaller, isolated communities. Here are some resources for getting computers and Internet access for your community (or school).
Building Wireless Community Networks is about getting people online using wireless network technology. The 802.11b standard (also known as WiFi) makes it possible to network towns, schools, neighborhoods, small business, and almost any kind of organization. All that's required is a willingness to cooperate and share.
The Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Service Fund -- administered under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)-- provides discounts to assist most schools and libraries in the United States to obtain affordable telecommunications and Internet access. Your application for funds begins at this page.
Computer Recycling Center in the S.F. Bay Area is an example of companies that provide refurbished computers to schools and other non-profit, public benefit programs. There are programs in your area or region that provide this same service.
Based in Dillon, Montana, Lone Eagle Consulting maintains a variety of resources and online courses for rural communities to obtain and leverage broadband service. They encourage self-directed Internet learners, able to adjust to a changing world and able to train others.
Sometimes, you just have to build out your own service. Mendocino is a small historic town of Victorian style buildings on the rugged coast of California about 150 miles north of San Francisco.
The Mendocino Community Network (MCN), owned and operated by the Mendocino Unified School District, came about through an original grant from NASA for teachers to develop curriculum that utilized the Internet. As they were "in the middle of nowhere", part of the grant was used to bring in Internet access. When the grant was over, the district opened up subscription access to the community.
At last check, MCN employs 18 local people, provides internships for many high school students and provides free or deeply reduced Internet services to the schools, teachers and nonprofit community groups in the area and throughout California.
In different states and municipalities regulations may determine whether a public school system and other agencies, particularly for-profit groups, can share the same network.
Many accounts may be provided by the same feed; in this case, a network is shared. School personnel may be approached by providers, offering discounts for networking-sharing. It is crucial to know who your other partners are. You do not want to be sharing an Internet connection with an entity that uses 98% of the connection bandwidth.
Another policy issue revolves about the use of advertising. Lots of bargains in the telecommunications biz come attached with an advertising tag. Advertising represents a departure from tradition. To do or not to do??