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Projects

  • Pittsburgh I-Net. Community organizing effort around renewal of Pittsburgh cable television franchise. [1999-2000]
  • Smart Building. In 1999 Alcoa moved from its old headquarters building to a new building on Pittsburgh's North Shore. Coincident with this move, Alcoa donated its old building for use by economic development agencies and other non-profit organizations.

    At the time of the announcement of Alcoa's donation, Information Renaissance proposed that the building, now known as the Regional Enterprise Tower, be equipped with a high-speed network that would allow tenants access to Internet connections with peak speeds of 10 Mbps at costs no higher than business DSL rates.

    Working with another Pittsburgh non-profit Three Rivers Connect, Information Renaissance raised the money for this project, designed and implemented the network. After operating the network long enough to demonstrate proof of concept, Information Renaissance turned the facility over to Three Rivers Connect, which is now responsible for the network's ongoing operation.

    In subsequent work, Info Ren extended the Smart Building concept to smaller sites. A reference manual on mini Smart Buildings provides a "how-to" for this activity.

  • Wireless Neighborhoods. This project has a long history of involvement with community service organizations in Pittsburgh. In 1997, when negotiations began to renew Pittsburgh cable television franchise, Information Renaissance proposed the construction of a fiber I-net. This institutional network would have been built from fiber laid alongside of the cable company's infrastructure, taking advantage of the low cost of installing such infrastructure while the cable system was being rebuilt. A coalition of nearly 100 groups were poised to make use of the proposed network.

    Info Ren's proposal was opposed by the cable company and pushed only fitfully by negotiators for the City of Pittsburgh. As a result, the cable franchise included some provisions for an I-net, but lacked enforcement mechanisms adequate to assure deployment at affordable prices.

    Frustrated by the failure of the I-net proposal, Info Ren set up 11 Mbps wireless links from the Regional Enterprise Tower to two members of the I-net coalition. After months of delay with the fiber project, it proved possible to have the wireless links up and running within two weeks of the trial project's approval.

    These wireless links provided the basis for a new project, which evolved under the name Wireless Neighborhoods. The technology selected for the network backbone provides peak speeds of 60 Mbps, in keeping with Info Ren's philosophy of deploying "LAN speeds across the city." Leaf nodes are connected with 60 Mbps antennas if they have a line of sight to the project's central location on the WQED Tower. Subsidiary relays use lower speeds - presently 22 Mbps.

    In order to meet the needs of economic development projects, Info Ren proposed to structure Wireless Neighborhoods as a 501(c)(12) cooperative under the U.S. Tax Code. This would enable the project to sell connections to commercial entities, who could join the cooperative with the same status as its non-profit members. Info Ren's cooperative project pages describe our original vision for this project.

    With guidance from the Heinz Endowments, the project's major local funder, Wireless Neighborhoods has now been spun off as an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. You can visit the Wireless Neighborhoods Web site to see the project's current status.

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