Sign the Chapel Hill WiFi Petition

I just wanted to renew my call to everyone who lives and works in Chapel Hill to sign the Free Public WiFi in Chapel Hill, NC NOW! petition. As of today, June 19, 2006, we only have 42 signatures. We need many more before I can present this to the Chapel Hill Town Council. There has been lots of positive movement towards the creation of a municipal network in Chapel Hill.

BTW, if you don’t live in Chapel Hill you can sign the petition but the council would be most impressed by signatures from their constituents and people who live near and work in Chapel Hill. Lets continue speaking out! Thank you to everyone who has signed the petition already.

To: Chapel Hill Town Council

The time has come for the Town of Chapel Hill to build a free, community-owned, public municipal network. The network should have wireless access and provide an open, unfiltered, and unmonitored connection to the Internet available to ALL people. It must be maintained by a local nonprofit for the people of Chapel Hill. Not by a private business or corporation.

We request that the Chapel Hill Town Council act swiftly to bring this service to the people.

The Undersigned

Public (Not Private) Internet Access for Chapel Hill

I wrote a guest post on our local politics blog Orange Politics called Public (Not Private) Internet Access for Chapel Hill. Check out the discussion about it over on that thread. Here it is in it’s entirety.
Chapel Hill provides many public services to its citizens. Over the years we’ve recognized the importance for all people to have equal access to basic necessities like water, sewer, electricity, telephone, transportation, roads, sidewalks, parks, etc. (The ones the town doesn’t directly provide the state regulates.) As the town moves into the twenty-first century we find that other types of access are just as important, especially in the new global economies.

One of those new types of access is Internet access. (Wi-Fi is one way to access information on the Internet.) It is steady stream of information that allows people to do all kinds of valuable and important things. In only a few years we have seen this access move from a mere toy to an extremely valuable tool. Very soon Internet access will be more than a tool but a resource that we all can not live without.

In order to assure that public Internet access is consistently provided, maintained, upgraded, and use education is made available we need a long term solution provider. This Internet access provider must have the resources to continue services well into the future. This robustness requires the service provider to function through difficult and prosperous economic times. Because of technologies swift rate of change, profit can not be the primary goal if public Internet access is to be consistently provided.

For these reasons and many others we have a public non-profit entity called OWASA provide our water access. They have the support of the town and county governments and a mandate to continue providing equal access to water resources indefinitely. This type of organization is the best kind to provide public information access to the Citizens of Chapel Hill. Let’s all work together to facilitate the creation of a new non-profit organization to provide public Internet access for all citizens of Chapel Hill.

Chapel Hill Free Public WiFi Petition

In an effort to bring a free public WiFi network to Chapel Hill and to let our elected representatives know how we feel I’ve created an online petition.

To: Chapel Hill Town Council

The time has come for the Town of Chapel Hill to build a free, community-owned, public municipal network. The network should have wireless access and provide an open, unfiltered, and unmonitored connection to the Internet available to ALL people. It must be maintained by a local nonprofit for the people of Chapel Hill. Not by a private business or corporation.

We request that the Chapel Hill Town Council act swiftly to bring this service to the people.


The Undersigned

It will be presented to the Town Council as soon as posible. If you are a citizen of Chapel Hill please go to and sign it. Thank you!

Angry BellSouth and Anti-Public Good Chapel Hill Business

The Washington Post is reporting that Bell South withdrew the donation of a building to the City of New Orleans – that was to be used for local police – when the city announced plans for a free WiFi network. Why do you think Bell South did this?

Let me preface my comments with a technical explanation. A municipal network can provide wired and wireless access to the Internet and Intranets. WiFi networks are usually created to provide wireless access to EVERYTHING you can get to via the Internet. The term free WiFi describes the cost of the service at the time of use. Not the actual cost of the WiFi to all citizens or the Town. Dispersing or delaying the cost of access to the Internet can really help people like the working poor.

Here in Chapel Hill, NC fear of angering local businesses and large corporations is preventing a municipal network from being created by the Town. See how Bell South treats suffering New Orleans? Remember what Verizon did to Philadelphia? Imagine what big bad business will do to Chapel Hill if we dare give something to those in need!

Based on their actions and inactions many local citizens are against a free town WiFi network. I think they believe it’s wrong for the government to provide free services. They CLAIM free WiFi will unfairly compete with and disrupt businesses. This fear is incredibly short cited. The potential for other money making possibilities if the Internet is available to all is HUGE. The evidence is all over the place! Just look at how much money some business could make building the WiFi network and providing the network access. Somebody has to pay for this. Someone will profit from it.

So if there is money to be made in the private sector by the creation of a free town WiFi network then why is business against it? Network providers and ISPs understand that the real money isn’t in building networks but leveraging the data that is collected en mass about users network usage habits. All you have to do is look at Google’s billions and you can quickly understand that user data is big money. By retaining complete control over access to the Internet you can understand how it’s used. Over time this information becomes more and more detailed. A local government who controlled access to the Internet might have issues with a business watching how they use it.

The Internet has provided a more level playing field for making money. Individuals and small businesses can compete effectively with large business and government. This has put large business, like Bell South, on the defensive to protect what they already have and profit from generously. In the near future pipes to the Internet will be guarded much more diligently. They will become expensive toll roads to the public’s information super highway. Read the article Saving the Net: How to Keep the Carriers from Flushing the Net Down the Tubes by Doc Searls to get the details and context.

In my estimation the biggest reason for business opposition to a free town WiFi network boils down to GREED. By working against it businesses and business people are preventing a valuable public service from being utilized by those who need it most. In Chapel Hill this is mainly poor black people – children, senior citizens, teens, and adults.

I don’t need free internet access. I can afford it, own the hardware to use it, and have the skills to take advantage of it. So can all the anti-public/pro-business people. Why not open your caring hearts and give other people this amazing privilege?

In the US we finally obtained public water, sewer, roads, street lighting, slumlord regulations, public transportation, public TV, etc. etc. etc. Do you think we got all these great public services by just asking nicely for them? NO! People in need had to suffer and die before the robber barons of the 19th Century would relinquish one tiny bit. (See the book People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn for the details.)

Citizens aren’t just asking for a hand out. We work for public services everyday. Public services aren’t free. They are only loaned to us at the time we use them. We pay back the local government for them later in taxes of all kinds. Yet another issue business has. They don’t want local government to get more of their money.

How will we win FREE public internet access for all? We reframe the debate and publicly shame businesses. The issue right now isn’t a technical one or really one of cost. The core issue right now is greedy business unwilling to allow the public free access to the Internet. You can look at it how ever you wish but greed is preventing “liberal” Chapel Hill from doing the right thing and building a free town WiFi network.

One Click Fed Snooping on Universities

In an article titled Colleges Protest Call to Upgrade Online Systems (registration required) the New York Times is reporting: “The federal government, vastly extending the reach of an 11-year-old law, is requiring hundreds of universities, online communications companies and cities to overhaul their Internet computer networks to make it easier for law enforcement authorities to monitor e-mail and other online communications.”


WiFi.Bedouin is a art-technology project created by Julian Bleecker. It’s a bunch of gear in a backpack that creates a mobile wi-fi network that doesn’t connect to the web. You may wonder why someone would want to use wi-fi if they couldn’t connect to the internet as a whole. Simple, you participate in a “island Internet” that exists inside a backpack where ever the backpack may be. Digital content that is very location specific. Specific to the people near the backpack.

From the website:

The WiFi.Bedouin consists of a small backpack containing an adapted 802.11b access point, RF amplifier, custom power supply and a PowerBook G4 running custom software, MovableType Blog software, a custom chat application, Apache 2.0, the Tomcat Java Servlet Container, and WiJacker – a custom built application that translates arbitrary named URLs to local services. A PocketPC PDA – the iPAQ 2200 – is mounted to the front of the WiFi.Bedouin pack, and is configured with its own 802.11 card. The PDA is used as a visual display for a custom GPS mapping application (mStory), for node WiFi activity, and for simple configuration.

I bet we could use one of these at PodcasterCon 2006! 😀 If a participant couldn’t access the Internet they could access this local network and edit a wiki, store files, listen to audio from iTunes, edit a blog just for local participants, etc.

Mobile Solar Powered Wi-Fi Hotspot

Mike Outmesguine, who I interviewed a few months ago about Wi-Fi security, has written an article for Popular Science’s online mag How 2.0 called Be Your Own HotSpot. I wish I could afford to combine this idea with my Ultimate Mobile Audio Creation Kit. Mike was my influence for that post. Nice to see he’s spreading the word. Imagine the LIVE on the spot podcasts you could do with this gear!

via: Hack A Day

Interview with Howard Owens about Public Wifi

Todays podcast is a short interview I conducted in LA at the Mobile Media Conference. While we were on a bus going to the University of Southern California‘s Integrated Media Systems Center I asked Howard Ownes of the Ventura County Star a question? Should there be more public broadband wi-fi networks and how should they be created? Municipal, Private, or Corporate. This is a very cool conversation that gets to the heart of the matter. Very relevant to some discussions going on here in Chapel Hill, NC. It’s wonderful to get other perspectives, even if I don’t completely agree with them all. 🙂

MP3 7m 5s 3.5MB 64kbps