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Students build a wireless network; their city may follow

What does it take to get municipal Wi-Fi off the ground? In Rochester, NY, it's high school students, not politicians, who are getting the job done. Well, the policitians help.
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What does it take to get municipal Wi-Fi off the ground? In Rochester, NY, it's high school students, not politicians, who are getting the job done. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports that Rochester Digital Ripple - a student-staffed project - will launch a free wireless network in the city.

The pilot project is being coordinated by the Rochester After School Academy. RASA provides counseling, mentoring, tutoring and employment opportunities to city youths. In its effort to set up a communications network, RASA has gained approved access to 17 utility poles in the city. The network could expand to 35 utility installations in this phase.

But it wasn't easy. The students needed the city's help in negotiating with Rochester Gas and Electric Corp. for access to utility poles. Those negotiations took a year to complete. "Whatever contract they agree with is what they'll stick with everybody else, and try to duplicate it," teacher Robyn Neill sais.

"We've met with every city official there is during the course of this," said Neill. "The mayor has been down here three times to look at our program."

Neill and other teachers began organizing the wireless program last fall with an eye on a student summer program.

"To see the excitement from students and how this really applies to their everyday life, that's really exciting," teacher Eric Grace said. "The education they're getting here is college-level."

The 22 students attending the academy's summer program are learning wireless computer technology and Web page design. Elements of English and art are also parts of the curriculum.

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