"Free" Internet for the Masses


Slides from a recent Seattle MindCamp session at which I co-presented my “Libraries Everywhere” concept with Jen Batten, of Speakeasy.net.


Slide One (Title Page)
Libraries Everywhere
          —-
Internet for the Masses


Slide Two (Problem)



  • Socio-economic disequilibrium, worldwide

  • Rich getting richer, poor poorer

  • Information and access controlled by the elite, perpetuates inequlity

Slide Three (Librarians are Hot)
They’re also the guardians of democracy!


Slide Four (Proposed Solution)



  • Libraries Everywhere


    • Internet as “Library”

    • Democratizes Information

    • Tax-supported or “subsidized” connectivity

    • Many library systems (viz, King County, WA) already offer free wireless Internet onsite.

    • Extends the Carnegie concept of affording ready access to information by the masses.

  • WiFi, WiMax, or landline

  • Inexpensive


    • Low cost infrastructure piggybacks on existing (KCLS ISP, Crossroads Mall, light posts, munincipal loops)

    • $80k initial cost for all of Redmond and ~$10k/year maintenance

    • Continuous education is less expensive than than formal education and re-education programs.

    • 5 years ago, $200 for a PCMCIA card, which today can be had for free

Slide Five (Arguments Against)



  • Puts ISPs out of business


    • Rebuttal: BS! Dale Carnegie and KCLS haven’t kept Amazon and Barnes and Noble from selling books.

  • “Ghetto” users will use it for porn and gambling


    • Rebuttal: True! And so will the “upper crust”. Equal access is nevertheless attained.

    • Mitigation: Librarians control immutable homepage

  • Ubiquitous Internet Access Will Hurt My Business 


    • Loiterering (e.g. Victor’s Coffee in Redmond)

    • Rebuttal: 3G is coming and Internet loiterers along with it, no matter what

  • Bandwidth-limiting over usage will hurt everyone


    • Yes, unless we mitigate. Open access to businesses and individuals is critical.

    • Rebuttal: upload/download limits are constitutional

Slide Six (Post-Presentation Notes)



  • Contributors: Stuart Maxwell, Doug Dobbins, Matt Westervelt, Rob Flickenger, Liz Lawley, Jen Batten, Richard Lotz,

  • Chicken and Egg – this will please the elite but not really diminish the Digital Divide (Liz) – Tax Dollars are scarce. Libraries are closing nationwide (CA). Make sure that some of the dollars go into training and other.


    • Counter-argument: we won’t know until we do it!

    • Rebuttal: ‘don’t build schools before you have teachers to fill them’,reduces transaction cost and saves poor people money (cuts out the check cashing businesses)

  • Need to demonstrate civic engagement benefits

  • Outside the US: India, Africa…success stories

  • Children won’t get primary access to computers in households. Teachers must be taught how to teach children in schools.

  • Need auxiliary resources for educational programs

  • Opportunity for Collaboration with Emergency Services (Doug Dobbins) – Fed. Grants

  • What is our measure of success? Do we need broad consensus on goals? Economic indicators…literacy…usage data…

  • Library Taps are an under-utilized public resource

  • Local Loops are an (often) under-utilized public resource

  • Support idea by sending emails/letters to Secretary of State Sam Reed.

  • Cable companies wield immense power in the State of Washington. Does this idea threaten the value of their “private” (unregulated) networks?

  • Sidewalk Analogy – everyone is responsible for their own portion of the sidewalk as well as subsidizing the construction of “public” sections.

  • We need to relate this to other utilities in an audience-specific way


    • Water: people buy bottled water even though there is water everywhere, pipes into houses..

    • People buy books in book stores despite the ubiquity of public libraries.

    • Just like Seattle Power and Light: network owned by city but it’s part of the national grid. Once electricity passes to/from the grid, money changes hands.

  • “Homeland Institute” opposes this idea

  • What effect would ubiquitous connectivity have on transportation and mobility costs.

  • Will “legitimize” what are currently gray market transactions by encouraging what were formerly garage sales to sites like eBay, Freecycle


    • Rebuttal: craigslist gray market

  • Research: Keith Hampton (MIT) – doctoral dissertation on neighborhood connectivity


    • I want to meet this guy. Encourage Liz/Marc to bring him in to speak for MSR

  • Encourages civic engagement, neighborhood connectedness (dramatic…counter-intuitive)

Comments (3)

  1. Doug says:

    Sorry for the delay in getting back to you but things have been hoping and LA gave me this really nice flu bug.

    Anyways, if you haven’t already seen it, you should check this story on CNN, Phoenix suburb wants Wi-Fi for all residents – http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/ptech/12/12/wireless.city.ap/index.html?section=cnn_tech

    The LA times has a great story, A High-Tech Hot Spot in Oregon’s High Desert, on a network for emergency services in the event of a leak at the Umatilla Chemical Depot which is now open to the public. Everyone from the general public, police departments, shippers and even onion brokers are now using the 700-square-mile area free hotspot.

    Doug