A Summit For Wi-Fi Activists
By David Pescovitz, Fri Jul 09 21:00:00 GMT 2004

Wi-Fi activists get connected at Get Connected, a community wireless conference next month.

On the heels of receiving more than $18,000 from the city of Urbana to blanket downtown with public Wi-Fi, the Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network is co-hosting the first large-scale national conference for grassroots Wi-Fi. The 2004 National Summit for Community Wireless Networks will take place August 20-22 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne.

All of the country's community Wi-Fi pioneers -- from NYC Wireless to Seattle Wireless -- will be in attendance. Media policy group Free Press and the Prairienet Community Network are also sponsors.

The conference theme, "Get Connected," seems to be more about networks of people then wireless access points and routers. Along with creating a place to geek out on wireless gear and network architecture, the conference organizers hope to "facilitate the critical alliance of technologists and policy experts." Of course, this kind of cross-polination of ideas is essential for public Wi-Fi to realize its potential.

Champaign-Urbana is a natural locale for the first major community wireless conference. The cash from the city was the not the only budgetary triumph the Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network enjoyed this year. In February, the group was granted $200,000 from George Soros's Open Society Institute to further develop their own wireless routing software and build a large test-bed in vivo.

"It's time we organized to take the public airwaves back from corporate interests," the conference organizers say. "Community wireless networks offer more services for cheaper prices and are owned by the communities that deploy them.