Suppose that Lafayette is about to undergo a change. Suppose the change will be bigger than the arrival of the oil and gas industry in the 1950s. Bigger than the completion of Interstate 10 in the 1970s. Bigger than the oil crunch in the 1980s, the 16 percent population growth of the 1990s or the $260 million home construction boom in 2003-2004. Bigger even than the influx of Katrina evacuees.
...the last time technology made so much information available to so many people, the result was the Renaissance. A few million books, printed on clumsy presses and distributed via pack animals and sailing ships, changed a world in which literacy had been a novelty.
Imagine the power that access to a few trillion Web pages, on demand, will give the man in a South Lafayette office. Or the woman who works at a North Lafayette industrial park. Or the kid with a laptop on his kitchen table in Azalea Park.
The immediate impetus for the series is the fiber-optic communications utility the community voted in on July 16th. But the stories, frankly, so far have seemed more like rehashes of wire stories (like the ones about online romance or file sharing) than explorations about what will be different about Lafayette. —And, make no mistake, Lafayette's implementation of big broadband will give us so much more capacity than most places the wire services write for that stories written with "little" broadband in mind will be only a relatively small part of the story. I'd love to see stories about big broadband, downloadable video, "long tail" sports downloads, big simulations, cheap online "web apps," business opportunities for video phone providers, residential network installers and the like. There are some really interesting things coming that could involve every department of the newspaper and I hope that someday this series will mature into an exploration of Lafayette's new possibilities—and get into the "real" paper as well. (What's that about?)
But the immediate reason to write about the series is the most recent story, "Wi-Fi pops up in the darnedest places," which sketches out the odd and not so odd locations at which you can jump onto a WiFi connection. Most folks who have WiFi available know about CCs and Mello Joy. (And if you don't you should cruise down to Mello Joy, have a piece of Lea's pie, and sample surfing the internet from one of the tables on the street.) But there were plenty of places in the story that had open nodes that I didn't know about and I consider myself knowledgeable (or did). So ride over to Krystal to read email. Or go to Guamas at lunch and keep tab on Hurricane Wilma or the latest commentary on the Saints. The Green Willow Cafe has WiFi too. Now the story did miss some places that I've used or know about: the Sonics on Pinhook and Willow have WiFi, as does the airport, for instance. And there's no mention of the places you can find with a little bit of "wardriving"--there are lots of open business and residential nodes if you poke around a bit.