Saturday, March 12, 2011
Unfortunately, Anthony Gilbert's situation is not uncommon.
Anthony is a senior in high school. He is a talented musician, an honor roll student and he aspires to study music in college.
He has a plan, he has a goal and he has the discipline to make it all happen.
Anthony now has a computer, and The HeliOS Project was privileged to give him one.
But there's one thing Anthony doesn't have...and probably wouldn't have for a while.
Anthony Gilbert has no access to the Internet.
Since 2005, The HeliOS Project has rebuilt over 1200 computers and distributed them to disadvantaged and exceptional students in the Austin area.
Anthony is both but we will emphasis exceptional. He works after school, but the money he makes goes to help his dad with the bills and his own academic needs. Anthony and his dad live in a small home right off of 12th street in East Austin.
He buys his own clothes, helps provide his household with food and what is left over...well that goes to guitar strings and patch cords. Anthony takes the bus anywhere he goes...he does not own a car.
Our closest estimates tell us that just over 60 percent of the 1262 computers we've distributed still remain unconnected to the Internet.
And it's bothering me more and more.
It bothers me to the point that I've organized a sub-effort under The HeliOS Project.
The Austin Prometheus Project.
We will set up a dedicated fund to provide our HeliOS kids with Internet service. Now, the point I want to make clear is this. This is an Austin problem and I am going to seek an Austin solution. We'll update our website soon to announce the presence of the program and to make people aware of it.
I'm going door-knocking. I will approach businesses within the community to let them know what we are doing and what they can do to help.
Often, the families that we present computers to will find a way to get connected...but for people like Anthony and his dad, it is a luxury. It's instances like these that Austin Prometheus will focus.
To this point, and with few exceptions, we've been fairly well ignored. Many Austin businesses and companies have been asked to help us when we needed it, and the results were poor. Time-Warner, Clear and Cricket have been contacted about this problem and we were either ignored or our in-office appointments were canceled by them and never re-scheduled.
Regardless of how often we tried to reschedule.
Corporate Responsibility Department. After a 40 minute wait, I was asked by the receptionist what my appointment was for. I explained that I needed to discuss Internet connections for the disadvantaged. An hour and 15 minutes after that, I was informed that the executive was called away unexpectedly and she would not return for the day. She would contact me and reschedule the appointment.
The call never came and my subsequent calls were never returned.
That's fine...what Austin business hasn't done for their own, the Free Software and Linux communities have stepped in and allowed us to do our work.
But not this time.
I've made arrangements for Time-Warner to connect Anthony's home to the Internet and I am going to pay for the first month and the setup fees from my own pocket. I can't do this often but in this case, I believe it to be important.
We spent a 2008 and a good part of 2009 building a guerrilla or "bandit" network in East Austin. It worked fine while the user base was at 30 homes or less but as it grew, we experienced more and more problems. Not in just lost connectivity but in failing or vandalized equipment and directionals. It got to the point where we were spending inordinate amounts of time just keeping the network up. Unfortunately, due to lack of manpower and resources, we had to let it go.
But as far as this project goes...
All I ask you to do is stand back and watch. I want you to keep track of Austin Prometheus as I report our progress and results.
I will post them as they happen in real time. We've set up a facebook page for that purpose.
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 8:22 AM