Thursday, October 27, 2005

WiFi in New Orleans

Ernie the Attorney has returned to his home in New Orleans to find the communications infrastructure is down and out. In an interesting echo of his earlier post What've got here is a failure to communicate (which discussed the signal/noise ratio in email and blogging - see my comment in the POSIWID blog) he now blogs about a much more serious problem What we have here is an inability to communicate.

Basically, the communications infrastructure in New Orleans is a mess. Ernie is one of the lucky ones, and he is sharing his good fortune with others.
I'm glad to say that my home is one of the few that has high-speed internet. ... I have a Wi-Fi set-up for my internet, and it reaches to the front and back of my house. So pretty much anyone who wants to can use it. My friends often come by and sit in the backyard or on the front porch. Some of these cyber-junkies are friends of friends. I wouldn't think of making my Wi-Fi network secure. Too many people need it. [my emphasis]
This is a commendable example of positive network trust. In the absence of top-down provision, people help each other.

But at the same time, there is clearly some serious mistrust of the authorities. It is not clear how the urgent message in Ernie's blog is going to get through to the people who might do something about it. (This is one of the political aspects of the point made in Ernie's earlier post.)

People in New Orleans are learning things it will take them a long time to forget. It will be interesting to see whether these events bring about a permanent shift in the trust geometry of these communities.

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