Monday, June 21, 2010

PC World Magazine Puts in a Good Word for St. Louis' Google Fiber Bid

Posted By on Mon, Jun 21, 2010 at 10:10 AM

click to enlarge WasabiNet creators Minerva Lopez and Ben West - PHOTO BY JENNIFER SILVERBERG
  • photo by Jennifer Silverberg
  • WasabiNet creators Minerva Lopez and Ben West
St. Louis has been vying for Google Fiber for nearly six months.

Mayor Slay made sure the city submitted its application for the new ultra-high speed Internet way back in March, tapping his Vanguard Cabinet to help complete the company's questionnaire and focusing on the city's intrinsic strengths in the pitch rather than the publicity stunts favored by some smaller markets.

The powers that be even built a website that features an interactive map and videos of public testimonials to show the Web kings from California that we're serious about wanting their state-of-the-art Internet connection.

Now, thanks to some tech-savvy grassroots community activism, the city has won a supporter from a prominent computing publication.

On Friday, Phil Shapiro of PC World Magazine published a glowing letter to Google on behalf of the Gateway City. Here's one of the many highlights:
I don't work for Google, but if I did, I would pay for the airfare of the WasabiNet organizers to attend this conference in Austria. And I would announce St. Louis as the first city to be chosen for Google's gigabit fiber-optic experiment. St. Louis is known as the "Gateway to the West." That gateway could also be the gateway to our future - a more inclusive, educated, healthful, hopeful, and well-functioning future.
Shapiro is referring, of course, to the super-cool public Internet project called WasabiNet that sprung up on Cherokee Street back in May 2009. The work of community activists Ben West and Minerva Lopez and a grant from the Incarnate Word Foundation, the "mesh node network" functions by beaming WiFi signals around Cherokee Street using empty cans of wasabi peas from Jay International Food Co. as antennae.

The WasabiNet system costs about $10 a month to join (though limited free access is available) and provides connection speeds of about three megabytes per second. Google Fiber, by contrast, promises downloads that will approach a whopping one gigabit per second.

Shapiro calls the creators "true geeks for good," and notes that Google could "take WasabiNet much further than its organizers ever imagined and could teach the rest of the world what's possible when a community self-organizes in this way."

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