Arnold Chase’s generosity in giving the town “66 miles of fiber optic cable located on utility poles around town,” as The West Hartford News put it, is inspiring.
The town’s response, on the other hand, is almost sad.
The story said that Administrative Services Director Chris Johnson said the cable “will enable the town to better connect all government and educational buildings to each other via the Internet. It will also assist town employees, including local police, in using the Internet ‘wireless,’ and managing traffic flow better by installing video cameras on traffic lights.”
Town Manager Jim Francis told the weekly that residents will not be able to use the fiber optic cable to become ‘wireless’ and they should keep their own Internet access provider.
“We are going to concentrate on the business of town services and the next step will be to explore how it can benefit the residents directly,” Francis told the paper.
The town apparently forks over $85,000 annually for a T-1 line, access to a fiber optic cable network. Once Chase’s cable network is transferred by 2009, the paper reported, “the town plans to expand the network throughout West Hartford.”
“Once we are through, we will have an infinite ability to transmit data and voice,” the paper quoted Johnson as saying.
Now let’s consider what they are doing.
The town is about to have “an infinite ability to transmit data and voice” through a wireless system that could extend through all of West Hartford for a relatively small investment.
It’s making that investment so municipal crews will have easy access to the web and suchwhat.
Now that’s all well and good.
But what about the rest of us? It strikes me that the town should begin searching for ways to benefit everyone as soon as possible, not just itself.
Let’s have wireless in the parks, the libraries, the ice skating rink, the pools, the golf courses and other common areas where wireless could boost laptop-toting lifestyles.
And let’s start looking at finding a way to make this access residents directly, too, to let all of us tie into the network Chase built at a cut-rate price or perhaps for free (or free for those who are struggling financially and cheap for the rest of us).
This gift has great potential. We need to think big, not just focus narrowly on municipal uses for the lines.