Sunday, March 06, 2005

Technology For All --- Occasional Update, March 2005 

"Together We Empower Communities"
Here's a quick update regarding Technology For All (TFA) and our collaborative efforts to empower residents of low-income and underserved communities through the tools of technology. Important information for Community Technology Centers (CTCs) and nonprofits doing community technology is located at the bottom. If you like this newsletter, please e-mail it to a friend. To support our work, go to http://www.techforall.org/ or call 713.454.6400.

News and Updates

TFA-Wireless featured in Houston Chronicle -- TFA-Wireless was featured on the front page of the the March 3, 2005 Houston Chronicle. In addition to TFA-Wireless, the article focused on the proposed Omnibus Telecom Texas House Bill 789 under discussion in Austin. The 300 page bill continues the deregulation of the telecom industry, but contains a one paragraph provision that would impose regulations to prohibit community wireless projects like TFA-Wireless (www.techforall.org/tfa_wireless.html ) because of its collaboration with the City of Houston Public Libraries and Rice University. TFA and other organizations are involved in projects like TFA-Wireless because it is the right thing to do. But if the proposed paragraph with more regulations is included, low-income Texas communities and neighborhoods will lose and competition, innovation and research will be stifled. For more go to the TFA BLOG at http://texasctcs.blogspot.com/ .

TFA-Wireless Thanks Many --- Mayor Bill White and Mayor Pro Tem Carol Alvarado along with Rice University President David Leebron assisted TFA and the Houston Public Library in announcing TFA-Wireless recently. Over 150 persons were present for the announcement held at the Melcher Branch Library in the Pecan Park Super Neighborhood. Many persons and organizations deserve recognition for the successful event including......
Mayor Bill White and his staff
Mayor Pro Tem Carol Alvarado and Chief of Staff James Rodriguez
Toni Lambert, Interim Director, Houston Public Library
Sandra Fernandez, Public Relations, Houston Public Library
Ray Davis, Founder and President, SimDesk Technologies, (SimHouston)
Leroy Robinson, Melcher Branch Manager and the Branch staff
Professor Ed Knightly, Ph.D. and Joseph Camp, Rice Networks Group, Rice University
Jade Boyd and B. J. Almond, Rice Media Relations Office
Rice University students taking Dr. Ed Knightly's class #438 "Deployment and Measurement of Wireless Networks"
Dave Dawson, President, Capital 4 and the staff of Capital 4
Steve Winter and Brett Passmore, ERGOS Technologies
Bill Chalupnik, Volunteer
Rod Thompson, Volunteer
Jack Clark, Attorney and TFA-Houston Board Member
University of Houston Interns - Levi Adkinson, Ted Bronstad, Chris Bossier, Geremy Eiland, Teague Kramer, Kevin Nguyen, Larry Nguyen
Our Community Friends at the Cossaboom YMCA and the Houston Community College Southeast
Technology For All Staff members and friends Jim Forrest, Douglas Caldwell, Rosemarie Foster, Pam Gardner, Mary Collins, Pete Rodriguez, Jesse Linarez, Fernando Lopez
...........and our first residential customer Mrs. Francisa De Leon.
For more information about TFA-Wireless go to http://www.techforall.org/tfa_wireless.html.

TFA-JobTech Begins Work --- TFA-JobTech is TFA's social enterprise that provides document conversion and knowledge management services for business and industry while employing residents from neighborhoods served by TFA and its community partners. TFA-JobTech's first employees are in the process of being interviewed and hired to complete several contracts for conversion services. Training was provided through the collaborative STREET U workforce development program. For more information about TFA-JobTech and the document conversion and knowledge management services it can provide your organization call Jim Forrest at 713.454.6413 or email him at Jim.Forrest@techforall.org . For information about TFA-JobTech on our website go to www.techforall.org/tfa_jobtech.html .
Support TFA's Social Enterprises --- Technology For All operates three social enterprises: TFA-JobTech, TFA-STARRS, and TFA-Wireless. Each enterprise uses technology to address a community need, provide a needed service to the community or to the business community and create revenue through scaleable business models to support TFA's core mission of empowering low-income and under-resourced communities. TFA-JobTech provides high quality document conversion and knowledge management services to its customers. Employees of JobTech are residents of the communities served by participating community technology centers. TFA-STARRS (Secure Technology Asset Recycling and Redeployment Services) provides a needed service at a lower cost to major corporations replacing information technology assets. TFA-Wireless provides an affordable wireless Internet solution in low-income communities while also providing the necessary infrastructure for some JobTech employees to work out of their homes. TFA's social enterprises seek customers and capital to to reach their full potential. For more information, go to http://www.techforall.org/social_enterprises.html or contact Jim Forrest, TFA's Business Development Officer at 713.454.6413 or by email at jim.forrest@techforall.org .

Mission Milby CTC --- New Spring classes have started at TFA's Mission Milby Community Technology Center. New classes include Intermediate Spanish computer classes, Introduction to Computers, Learn and Earn for High School Students, GED, English as a Second Language, STREET U Level 3 and TFA-Wireless orientation classes.

Recent Donations to TFA --- TFA expresses thanks to its recent donors including the Vivian Smith Foundation, Ed Fendell, Jin Foor, Joan Krause, Ashley Kishino, Amanda and Richard Hellman, Alice Hahn, Jill Harmon, Grant Maloney, Christine Sichter, John Brasher, ChevronTexaco, St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital and the U. S. Department of Commerce. Cash donations can be sent to Technology For All, 2220 Broadway, Houston, Texas, 77012. To make a computer or other technology donation contact Douglas.Caldwell@techforall.org or call 713.454.6412.

WE NEED COMPUTERS! --- Is your corporation replacing desktops or laptops? TFA has several community organizations waiting to provide a home for those computers in service to community technology centers serving Houston's low-income neighborhoods. Consider the goodwill that your computer donation can create by empowering a low-income community. We have a large donation of several thousand monitors from ChevronTexaco underway. But each of those monitors need a computer. Can your company or organization fill the gap? TFA has established TFA-STARRS to assist corporations with its Secure Technology Asset Recycling and Redeployment Services. Through our strategic alliances we can provide you a turn key solution that addresses your data security issues and reduces your total cost of ownership when upgrading computers. For more information contact Douglas.Caldwell@techforall.org or Jim.Forrest@techforall.org at 713.454.6400.

Important Info for CTCs and CBOs

The Latino Digital Divide --- There is an excellent article/cover story in the bilingual Missouri magazine Adelante on the Latino digital divide:
English: http://www.adelantesi.com/cover_engFEB05.htm
Spanish: http://www.adelantesi.com/cover_espFEB05.htm

March CTC Brown Bag to Feature NASA Educational Programs - Terry Hogdson from NASA's educational services department will be the featured speaker at Houston's monthly brown bag for community technology leaders on Wednesday, March 23 at 12 noon at TFA's offices located at 2220 Broadway. For more information contact Pam.Gardner@techforall.org or by phone at 713.454.6400.

CTCNet Spring 2005 Newsletter --- CTCNet recently posted its Spring 2005 newsletter at http://www.ctcnet.org/ctc_network_news/spring05.htm

Websites of Interest to CTCs and CBOs

The Quilts of Gee's Bend - http://www.tinwoodmedia.com/geesmain.html In a show organized by Houston's Museum of Fine Arts, the Quilts of Gee's Bend is a site that features quilts but so much more. For CTCs wishing to teach their constituents how to tell and illustrate the stories of their communities and culture through various media, go to this site. It is well done.

Sensitive Language --- As CTCS work together with many different communities and cultures we need to avoid insensitive and offensive language. Check out this site to help with "sensitive" language. http://www.randomhouse.com/words/language/avoid_essay.html

America Connects --- http://www.americaconnects.net/
Digital Divide Network --- http://www.digitaldivide.net/
Association for Community Networking --- www.afcn.org

Join CTCNet today - TFA encourages community technology centers to join the Community Technology Centers' Network. For more information, go to http://www.ctcnet.org/ .

Support our Program Partners --- For a complete list of TFA and TFA-Houston program partners, go to http://www.techforall.org/program_partners.html

We welcome your feedback! Contact Will Reed at 713.454.6400 or by email at will.reed@techforall.org .

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Houston Chronicle article moved to archives 

The Houston Chronicle article has moved to the archives..... You may have to register to see it...
To find it go to http://www.chron.com . Search the archives. "Eric Berger" was the reporter who wrote the article. It was published on 03/03/05.

HB789 and TFA-Wireless in the news 

TFA-Wireless and Texas HB789 introduced by Rep. Phil King has generated lots of interest across the state and the country as communities and interested persons advocate for municpal wireless projects. In addition to being featured in the Houston Chronicle (registration required), Rice University and the Houston Business Journal the story has also been picked up by numerous blogs, Slashdot, The Drudge Report, Save Muni Wireless and the Daily Wireless (see the entry for March 4).

If you are concerned about the potential ban of community wireless projects write the members of the Regulated Industries Committee and your representative in the Texas House of Representatives.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Wireless Networks don't click with some 

That is the title of an article in today's Houston Chronicle which can be found at

The full text of the article is below....

"Wireless networks don't click with some
Telecom bill would ban free Internet access like that in model East End program
By ERIC BERGERCopyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

Will Reed envisions a mouse in every house — computers, that is — and high-speed Internet connections for all. A wired community, he says, is an empowered one.

From his nonprofit group's East End offices, Reed is turning his vision into a reality. Although Pecan Park neighborhood residents may not realize it, e-mail, pictures and commerce now zip above their tree-lined streets. This high-speed, wireless Internet access is free for the taking.
Reed's organization, Technology for All, has pioneered this program to bridge the digital divide with help from Rice University and an enthusiastic Mayor Bill White, who has asked city libraries to join the effort. This small, wired neighborhood may eventually become a model for providing everyone in the city free, or low-cost, Internet access.

Or not.

Rep. Phil King, R-Weather-ford, has filed a massive telecommunications bill in Austin this session that, in part, bans Texas cities from participating in wireless information networks.
"I'm not real pleased," Reed said. "As it currently stands, the bill eliminates competition, innovation and a huge research opportunity."

Several telecommunications companies, which provide both dial-up Internet access as well as faster broadband connections through cable and DSL lines, say they were not involved in writing the bill.

That's not to say they disagree with the wireless provision. SBC Communications, which has more DSL customers in the nation than any other provider, said cities should be allowed to offer wireless Internet access in public places, such as parks and libraries. But they should not directly compete with private enterprises by providing services to residents and businesses, said company spokesman Gene Acuña. "If they do, then we would have some real concerns," he said.

Other cities considering

Houston, which also is considering ideas such as putting Internet antennas on parking meters, is not alone in exploring wireless Internet. Philadelphia has said it will offer free, citywide access. Los Angeles and San Francisco also are studying how to do the same thing. In Texas, small towns such as Linden and Granbury have experimented with wireless networks, as have larger cities such as Austin and Corpus Christi.

The catalyst has been an explosion of innovations in technology — from antennas to modem-like devices — that allow personal computers to capture signals from the air. This has driven down costs.

Telecommunications companies have taken notice as cities, nonprofit organizations and startup companies have begun using these technologies to offer free or steeply reduced Internet access, said Bill Gurley, a Silicon Valley-based venture capitalist with Benchmark Capital who closely follows the issue.

Legislators in a dozen states, including Texas, have filed bills to remove competition for telecommunications companies, he said. Most are pending, but an Indiana effort failed, while a similar law in Pennsylvania passed, although it omitted Philadelphia because of that city's existing efforts.

"These are very disruptive, low-cost technologies, and it's not in the incumbent telecommunication companies' best interest to embrace them," Gurley said. "But these are technologies that can be very beneficial to communities."
King's chief of staff, Trey Trainor, said they are rewriting the telecommunications bill to recognize that there are legitimate uses for municipal networks, such as public safety communication, meter-reading and other city services. King's basic objection, Trainor said, stands — in a free-market system it's not acceptable to let public government compete with private businesses.

As the public-private fight heats up in Austin, Francisca de Leon and her family are, for the first time, enjoying Internet access in their East End home.
With the e-mail address for an older daughter in California taped to the monitor, de Leon uses the computer to keep in touch with family. Another daughter, Janet, a Milby High School senior, uses the computer for instant messaging and college searches. "My children use this much more than me," de Leon admitted.

Melissa Noriega, the acting state representative for the area covered by Technology for All, called the effort to ban municipal participation in wireless Internet efforts "short-sighted," and said she will work to prevent it from becoming law.

Noriega said families that cannot speak fluent English can be transformed by learning to use a computer and crossing the digital divide — they learn how to spell-check, can find translation services online, e-mail family in their home countries, and much more.
"This may be the single biggest step we can take to close the gap between the haves and have-nots," she said.

Signal beamed to library

Technology for All's plan works by transmitting its fiber-optic Internet connection from a large antenna on its offices. The organization beams the signal directly to Melcher Library, about two-thirds of a mile away. Residents within a few hundred yards of either spot can pick up signals now.

Within a month or two, Reed says, several residents, as well as a YMCA and other organizations, have agreed to install antennas to spread access across the entire neighborhood.
Residents can sign up at the library for in-home access. Technology for All provides free computers to high school students who take a computer course, but is looking for a sponsor to help provide $125 modems that plug into computers and capture the wireless signal.

The fledgling network offers Rice engineers and students a real-life environment to test the optimal placement of antennas, and how to maximize access speed while minimizing needed equipment. This research is funded with a five-year, $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant to develop the next generation of technology, with the eventual goal of beaming Internet connections 250 times the speed of DSL or cable into 100 million homes.

"This is a step toward that goal," said Ed Knightly, a Rice engineer leading the research project. "In this case, we're pushing as much bandwidth as we can achieve per square mile for the lowest cost. It's inspiring to see our research get directly into the community."eric.berger@chron.com "

For more information about House Bill 789 and its impact on community wireless projects go to www.savemuniwireless.org

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