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New Technologies

Information Renaissance is making it possible for community groups and businesses in Pittsburgh to obtain affordable, high-speed connections to the Internet. The Wireless Neighborhoods project is deploying a wireless network, placing antennas on rooftops and communications towers. After a successful trial involving five sites connected to an antenna on the WQED broadcast tower, the network is now being expanded city-wide.

The Cooperative

The administrative structure chosen for the Wireless Neighborhoods project is that of a coooperative, a 501(c)(12) organization under the U.S. tax code. The cooperative invites community service organizations and commercial enterprises to join as members. Members can share resources locally over a wireless Wide Area Network and use a common Internet connection. This saves money, encourages collaboration and provides unexcelled network service.

Background

The passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 promised a new era for competition in the provision of telecommunications services. In the dominant areas of telephone and cable TV this hasn't happened. Incumbents have used their monopoly power to suppress new entrants, and - after a brief surge - consumers are now seeing a reduction in their alternatives for Internet access.

Information Renaissance believes that this situation is likely to create a new "Digital Divide:" Internet content providers are shifting many of their services to utilize the capabilities of broadband, but low-income communities will lack affordable access.

Wireless technologies allow user communities to overcome the stranglehold that incumbent service providers have in many communities, since the wireless infrastructure can be deployed quickly and without excessive dependence on the leasing of existing telecommunications capacity.

Info Ren's role

Information Renaissance has supported this project with network design, selection of equipment, setup, operation and monitoring of the network, and construction of an interactive Web site. Info Ren also drew up the Cooperative's business plan and has advised the Cooperative on its formal incorporation. For more information visit the www.wireless-neighborhoods.org Web site.

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