[Community_studios] community wireless networks and Open Studios
tompoe at studioforrecording.org
Thu Nov 10 01:01:46 EST 2005
MULTIMEDIA CENTERS IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD
By Tom Poe
November 9, 2005
The nice thing about cable tv, is their marketing department. For those
who have cable, they can choose from literally hundreds of channels,
offering everything from woodcrafting to gardening, from cooking to
personal hygiene, from tips to new parents to kitchen and house design.
Having tested the market, they have concluded such shows are watched
by lots of people. Well, that said, the bad thing about cable tv, is
their shows! Ask anyone who has watched them, and they'll most likely
volunteer they could do as well, or better than the folks on the shows.
In some communities, the cable franchise agreement requires the company
to provide multimedia centers for the residents. These centers offer
residents the opportunity to make such shows, and air them on the local
cable tv channels. But, what about our community? We don't have such a
facility. Do we need one? Do we need several? Would we use them, if
we had them? This article gives some information that just might
provide the answers to those questions and more. Go ahead, read on.
WHAT IS A MULTIMEDIA CENTER?
It's a computer. Well, not too many months ago, it was an expensive
setup, and an impossible dream. Today, suddenly, technology has
exploded, and everything that was required just a matter of months ago,
now sits on a computer. In other words, in order to create CDs, or
DVDs, or tv or radio shows, or even full-featured films, one simply
needs a computer sitting on your kitchen table. Can you believe it?
I have a donated computer sitting on my kitchen table. It's a low-end
PIII desktop computer. I got some CDs with an Open Source operating
system, installed freely available software from Stanford University's
Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, and this donated,
cheap computer now enables me to make high quality CDs. The cost is
something less than $4.00, so far. If the cost is that low, you can bet
it will be just a matter of time, before every neighborhood in every
community will have one or more for local residents to use, free of charge.
I think it's important to make some comments about what the tv companies
“In just the past few months some of the biggest TV names have announced
new broadband channels, from MTV Networks to Comedy Central () to ABC
News. If you thought the 400 cable channels focusing on everything from
golf to anime were already cutting niches thin, broadband TV is going a
step further.” - From Business Week, November 8, 2005.
They're simply making video clips (tv shows) which people can download
and watch. That's it! Something you and I can do on a computer sitting
on the kitchen table. Now, you have to realize that the telcos, the
cable industry, the broadcasters do not want you to know that. It's a
secret. Imagine the havoc created when the entire country realizes they
don't need large corporations to control what they watch, or listen to.
Let's compromise, though. Let's let them continue to provide whatever
they provide, and let's imagine a community where broadband is provided
in an affordable way. With the computer, we can put up video clips that
are the equal of what they put up, and even better, our video clips let
us see what's happening locally. We let (we're generous folks) the
Charles City Press use one of the computers to produce video clips of
the news for us to view, as well as a copy of the paper to hold and
read. We let HyVee get into the game, and produce video clips we can
watch on what specials are offered, how the deli works, tours of the
store, interviews with the flower department, customer service
department, whatever. We're able to watch church services throughout
the week. All we do, is use the broadband connection to access the
sites, and download the shows. Are you looking for a pet? Paws will
make it possible for you to view the pets, call them, and have them
delivered to your door, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There's no limit
to the possibilities.
One especially nice thing about broadband, is the ability of our city
government to provide services that are now being made available in a
somewhat clunky fashion. For example, city meetings will be “live”, as
well as recorded. A broadband network provides a reassuring sense of
security for the community, regardless of what natural disaster might
occur. The New Orleans hurricane tragedy might have come out
differently, because, with a broadband community network, communications
for fire and police and hospital personnel would have been back up and
running within a couple of hours.
When combined, the multimedia centers in every neighborhood, along with
a broadband wireless community network, offers us the best available
technology for our community, and, in an affordable fashion. Is this a
replacement for our present telecommunications and cable industry
alternative? Doesn't have to be. Coexisting alternatives are simply
another way of saying, creativity and innovation. Our country was
founded on the principle that creativity and innovation will drive
progress. Competition is increased, when you and I have the ability to
do the same thing that broadcasters, film makers, record labels, and
newspapers do. Did I mention that with some additional investment, our
local theatre can offer our “home-grown” productions right in the
theatre, from outdoor events to documentaries to children's recitals?
Imagine the possibilities for additional revenues, if our local arts
organizations begin to make their performances and events available for
the theatre. Not to mention, all of the works created by us, are
potentially of interest to people all over the world. How many copies
of a tour of Mooney's art exhibit might be sold to schools around the
world, if our local library had one of these computers?
COMMUNITY-BASED WIRELESS NETWORKS:
The telcos, cable industry and content producers are consolidating to
the point we now have what, maybe five radio station owners in this
country? Regardless of where one lives, their request to air their
radio show must get permission from one of those five owners. Now, stay
with me on this, we have only a handful of cable operators to choose
from in this country. In my community, I have one telco providing phone
service, and one cable company providing service. If I don't like the
service, I can . . .
Technology enables a community to create a wireless network, one that
will provide access to the Internet at a fraction of what the phone or
cable company offers. The cost of putting a community wireless network
in place is peanuts. But, that's not the point, actually. Wireless
networks offer something else. They offer a community a communications
infrastructure that utilizes the airwaves that are owned by you and I.
The phone companies and cable companies have a duopoly playing out, one
that relies on continued control of the airwaves that belong to you and
I. The government gives control of those airwaves to the duopoly in
return for discharging responsibility to act in the interest of the
public (that's you and I). Today, the interest of the public is best
served, if the technology advances are made available to you and I.
We are rapidly approaching the day, when we can speak to our computers,
and throw away the keyboard. We'll use microphones. Our voices will
control the computer. We'll be making high quality recordings and
broadcast quality videos whenever we use our computers, whether for
composing an intimate conversation with our relatives and friends over
the Internet, or a tv show, or a radio show, or a dictated letter we
print out and place in the post office to mail to someone. Using the
airwaves that we own, we can send voice, text, images, music, art,
literature, science, data across the Internet to anywhere in the world.
Without access to the Internet, there will be many who will be left
behind. Those of us on limited incomes will be discriminated against,
our children whose families can't afford access to the Internet, will
become the “uneducated ones” of the future.
When asked, the telcos and cable industry answers that they are
providing for rural and low-income folks. They say it costs too much,
and that it's a long-term project to make access to the Internet
available to everyone. This begs the question, then, as to why they
don't use the technology available, along with our airwaves they're
using, and build community wireless networks. The cost is negligible.
You won't get an answer from them. I'll leave you with a question: Why
don't we build a community wireless network, today?
Open Studios, Charles City, Iowa, USA
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