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March 18, 2008

BroadbandWiki Beta Begins

Please help test the broadbandwiki project at http://s3.amazonaws.com/broadbandwiki/broadbandwiki.html. There’s no doubt it has bugs and it can certainly be improved. Bug reports and suggestions as comments on this post would be great.

The purpose of the broadbandwiki project, which was built with the GoogleMaps API and stores its database on Amazon’s S3 Service, is to enable Vermonters to help Vermont reach its goal of becoming the first e-state in the nation with both cellular coverage and usable broadband everywhere – which means everywhere – in the State by the end of 2010. However, in the spirit of open source and open competition, I’m happy to make the application available to any state or organization with a similar mission. In fact, I’ll make the code openly available, period, very soon. One problem may be to avoid too many databases soliciting the same information and leading to fragmentation.

The concept of the application is simple. You enter your address, type of Internet access, and provider. The app puts a pin, which is color coded to show your access type, on a map. Once there are enough pins (as there already are in Stowe, Vermont), they are immediately useful for seeing what type of access is available in a neighborhood. They also graphically illustrate where lack of access is a problem for residents and an opportunity for a provider.

Like many Web applications, this database is not really useful until it contains a critical mass of data – at least on a location by location basis. People can – and I hope will – go directly to the site and place their pin. The plan is to have this incorporated soon in the site of the Vermont Telecommunications Authority. It can also be imbedded in or linked to from the sites of the many towns which are taking an active role in providing for their broadband future. But the best way to get this populated will be for other towns to do what Stowe did while we were testing – set up a table at an event where a lot of people come together and get the people to pin their locations on the spot. After one day of work, Stowe’s part of the map reached critical mass.

If you live in Vermont, entries you make in the map are “live” and will be immediately useful. If you don’t live in Vermont, your entry will appear on the map while you are looking at it but you’ll be warned that it’s not really being stored in the database. Either way, I’d appreciate your help both in supplying the data and testing the application.


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