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RI races to go wireless

RI Future's Matt Jerzyk writes in this week's Phoenix about how Rhode Island is poised to become the first state with a border-to-border wireless network, and how people like Saul Kaplan, the state's creative economy guru, sees this as an important tool for much needed economic development.

Operating from a refurbished mill west of the Providence Place Mall, once a hot spot of Providence’s industrial economy, a group of innovation leaders plan to make Rhode Island the first state with a fast and accessible border-to-border wireless network that could spur economic growth, improve government services, and enhance the Ocean State’s place in the 21st century.
 
Before you harbor hopes of being able to surf the Web from the beach or check your e-mail from a public park, it should be noted that this wireless network is not oriented to consumers. It’s primary purpose is to serve businesses and nonprofits, and to spur economic growth by increasing efficiencies and communication in organizations.
 
The Rhode Island Wireless Innovation Networks (RI-WINs) is a public-private partnership that has worked closely with the state Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to get a wireless network completed by the end of 2008, at a cost of $28 million — none of which will be borne by the public.
 
Boosters point to myriad possibilities. Imagine, for example, that an EMT is able to provide immediate streaming data to a hospital as a heart attack victim is being taken there, so that doctors have real-time knowledge of the patient’s condition. Think of teachers who are able to build ties between students and parents, thanks to constantly updated and easily viewable student portfolios. Or consider the increased coordination and efficiency with which emergency responders could operate during a hurricane, terrorist attack, or other calamity.

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