Posted: March 8th, 2010 | Author: Brian Mortensen | Filed under: Industry | Tags: columbia mo, economy, google, google fiber, mid-missouri, neocolonialism | No Comments »
So there’s been quite a bit of publicity lately over Google choosing a city to make as a host site for its uber-fast fiber connection. You can check out the extent to which some cities are going from this story by my colleague Alex Rozier.
On paper, it sounds like a great idea. It’d be huge for Mid-Missouri to get a major global connection through the world’s biggest and most powerful internet behemoth. Plus, it would be outstanding to upgrade the city’s feeble internet capability to a speed never yet seen in America, let alone Missouri. The connection would allow MU to bring tons of high-caliber students, professors, and investment thanks to the obvious attractiveness of gigabyte-per-second speed. Mid-Missouri could certainly benefit from the connection bringing lots of jobs – from cushy high-paying engineering jobs to internet hosting, construction jobs for all the infrastructure, and tons of further development. It really does sound like a great deal – and certainly Columbia fits the bill for what Google is looking for.
But I think we need to step back and take a look at what Google is going to require to come to Columbia. Nate Anderson of Ars Technica does a good job explaining the background to Google’s search for a city. Essentially, Google appears to not be asking for much in return for this. But let’s be honest – once they choose a city, the public hoopla will be so big, a city will HAVE to pay whatever Google’s price is to have them come in. Their own site for FAQs says “The final price has not yet been determined, but we intend to offer service at a competitive price.” In California, Verizon installed FiOS, a comparable internet service for roughly $682 million.That’s an enormous chunk of change that towers over Columbia’s yearly budget (usually in the range of $70-80 million).
So how much would Google want from the city of Columbia to potentially install all this? Or would they just do it gratis, and expect a major share of the subsequent financial avalanche of investment? Or is it just like buying internet service where you choose what you want? What information does Google want in return? Their mission, after all, is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” (more here). It might be kind of cool to be able to pull up various governmental statistics in moments, but what about tax documents, medical records, addresses and phone numbers, and just about any other information considered “personal” and “private”? All of these questions seem very muddled in the hype over “Saint Google”.
I’m very skeptical of all of this. Yes, as I wrote above, it sounds wonderful. But it sort of reminds me of what my Indigenous People and Natural Resources class has been discussing for the past few weeks – how major corporations infiltrate local communities in 3rd world/undeveloped countries and exploit them and their land for cheap/easy industrial development – otherwise known as neocolonialism. Pardon my snarkiness, but Columbia’s Google Fiber cheerleaders over at comofiber.net remind me of some sort of Ecuadorian tribe emerging from the jungle cheering the arrival of missionaries promising to improve their lives – and 3 months later, they’re uprooted and moved to a reservation while the company comes in and takes their land/resources. Obviously, that won’t happen in reality should Google come here, but we really need to consider what Google is asking for should they come here. And, we shouldn’t be afraid to question the company. We can’t treat them like some sort of emperor swooping in to his colony with unlimited power – let’s get a good deal for Columbia that gives us the best of what Google can offer while not totally submitting to their will.
Posted: November 25th, 2009 | Author: Brian Mortensen | Filed under: travel | Tags: brian mortensen, columbia mo, continental airlines, i-70, mo-x, newark, nj, travel | 1 Comment »
Finally arrived home in NJ Tuesday after not being home since August. I stayed in Columbia until yesterday because I filled in a few live truck shifts. Otherwise I would have flown home Sunday. But anyway, I flew out of KC to Newark, and took the MO-X shuttle so I could leave my car at home. I’m thinking this was a bad decision despite near-exhaustion from lack of sleep the night before. I got on the MO-X at Gateway and changed buses at their terminal on Providence and the Business Loop. I boarded the bus and was surrounded by old women. I thought, “uh oh.” I have nothing against old women, but I was NOT in the mood for making conversation. I wanted to put on my Springsteen Live in NYC on my noise-cancelling headphones and sleep for at least 45 minutes. So when the guy with a Bluetooth headset, enormous backpack, and walking cane steps into the bus, introduces himself, and tells everyone he has a laptop to check “traffic and weather for the whole trip” you can imagine how irritated I was. He then told folks he was a former Navy SEAL (the picture of him is included with this post) had “friends in NASA”, and then asked the driver to plug in his portable charger to the power outlet in front. So upon departing Columbia, he began making small talk with just about everyone. I was basically asleep by the time the Mo-X accelerated onto I-70, and slept til about milemarker 75 (a good 30-35 minutes). I was awoken by the same man blathering on about his computer’s internet connection and the old woman behind him horrified of missing her flight she’d be arriving for 3 hours in advance. I was forced to endure this background talk as my Springsteen blared on in my headphones. Of course, instead of taking I-70 through downtown Kansas City to I-29, the Mo-X takes I-435 around the entire city to the airport. It adds a good 30-40 minutes to the trip because apparently they’re afraid of getting stuck in traffic – in the middle of the day, no less. Line of the day came at this point – the man pointed to his computer screen and said “We’ll be out of this rain in 2 minutes!!” 2 minutes later, it was still raining, and he looked very disappointed. Anyway, he got off at USAirways (a completely different terminal) and I was one of the last to get off at Continental.
I ate lunch at the majestic Budweiser Lounge while being tempted by the fine alcoholic products available at 12:15 on a weekday. I didn’t have any, but any later in the day I may have considered some. This, and going through security remained uneventful. Upon sitting at my gate for a while, a Continental employee got on the PA and told travelers the “aircraft’s lavatory light is not working, and the pilot doesn’t want to take off without that because it’s a 2 hour and 15 minute flight, so we’ll try to get it fixed, worst case scenario we’ll either fly with no lavatory service, or change aircraft.” I’ve never heard of that happening before – the lavatory light not working – and the fix seemed incredibly simple (change the bulb??) but what do I know, I’m not an airline mechanic. So they had us move to the gate next to ours, the plane to Houston, while the Houston passengers moved to our plane.
So all that goes on, and I get on the plane content to sleep again. We took off and enjoyed a relatively uneventful flight until about halfway through when the small child in front of me began 1) singing constantly 2) telling its Daddy to “DADDY LOOK THE WINDOW WON’T CLOSE”. This eventually devolved into the child singing one line from “Joy to the World” on repeat until the door opened in Newark. Of course, the parents didn’t do anything and seemed to think their child was just bringing JOY TO EVERYONE!!
Hardly – they would have been more joyful if the kid had just shut up! UGH!!!