Close to the Edge
by M. Stewart
A story in today’s Review, County looks at providing wireless Internet, suggests that our area might be on the verge of joining the 21st-century, and it doesn’t surprise me that county port authority CEO Tracy Drake is leading the charge.
Drake is a progressive thinker and doer, and the county would be crazy to stand in his way. As I recall, Drake began laying the groundwork for digitizing the county at least three years ago. He understood then what he understands now—that progress requires cooperation. Among those supporting the project is another progressive player, Kent State regional campus Dean Jeff Nolte, and if the governor’s office and all the other institutions represented at the information session support the program, this plan might actually come together.
Let’s face it, one of the biggest problems we face in Columbiana County is what is commonly known as provincialism. In short, we typically stand as far from the cutting edge as possible. But according to the newspaper, “... Columbiana County could be the first in the state to provide such broad access. It also would be one of only a few such counties in the country.”
The mere thought of standing this close to the edge is exhilarating!
I haven’t had time to think through the ramifications of a county-wide wireless system, nor did the newspaper report much in the way of specifics. Certainly it could be an enterprise fund for the county and perhaps the municipalities, and as long as the service remains inexpensive and reliable, it may indeed boost interest in the area by outside business investors.
Aside from shafting already existing ISPs, I’m not able to think of any negatives at this point. But why should we be concerned about how existing providers think? They’re in the marketplace like everyone else. Hey, this is America. Let them respond or die.
The Review also reports today that Nick Trombetta will resign as president of the National Network of Digital Schools and superintendent of Midland Borough School District. According to the newspaper, Trombetta wants to “focus his energies on the defense of the PA Cyber School,” which he sees as the target of “vicious assaults from several relentless sources.”
The issue here is allocation of state education dollars, and it isn’t limited to Pennsylvania or even just cyber schools. The fight between public schools and charter schools of all kinds is nearing the boiling point as traditional public schools find their monopoly on public education challenged.
It’s good to see my friend and former colleague Fred Miller running communications for NNDS. Miller is quoted as saying, “The problems they’ve had have been problems of success. ... We’re characterizing this as part of the maturation process of the organizations.”
For the most part, I think Miller’s comment is accurate. If NNDS were not successful, no one would care. Still, the stakes are very high, and Trombetta is taking the matter seriously enough to clear his plate of other duties to command a war that, for him, has two fronts—Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Today’s big stories are related only insofar as they both have to do with Internet technology. We must understand that the Internet has and will continue to change everything we do. The entire world is in the midst of a monumental paradigm shift, and the empowerment of the individual through information technology is affecting every aspect of our private, professional and public lives.
The change is by no means all positive, but in the big picture I would go so far as to say that these new machines are altering our consciousness and forcing us to evolve. More than ever, we are faced with important decisions about how best to manage this evolution into technology-dependent beings. Although change always produces casualties, it is inevitable. Once opened, this box can’t be closed.
_________________________Trivia quiz: The title of today's post, "Close to the Edge," is a borrowed title. Where does it come from?