High-speed wireless Internet access is the norm for most people in the U.S., but it's still a dream for many residents of Appalachia, the 200,000 square-mile region of the U.S. that stretches from Southern New York to Northern Mississippi. But that dream will soon become a reality for residents of Glenville, West Virginia.
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation have given researchers at Carnegie Mellon's Center for Appalachian Network Access (CANA) $250,000 to create a new broadband network linking Glenville to the rest of the digital world via high-speed wireless Internet.
Glenville, population 2,000, lies about 160 miles south of Pittsburgh. Like many rural communities, it is overlooked by commercial Internet providers. Residents and businesses depend on slow, costly dial-up service to connect to the Internet.
CANA was co-founded earlier this year by Bruce Maggs, associate professor of Computer Science, and Pittsburgh investment banker John Whitehill. The two aim to bring the Internet to Appalachian communities like Glenville and raise the literacy and economic profile of the region. According to Maggs, this new high-speed connectivity should have a lasting impact on the Glenville economy.
"Wireless Internet means that geographic isolation can no longer keep rural communities from conducting commerce with the greater world," Maggs said. "Our project in Glenville is a prime example of how technology can be used strategically to bring together public and private institutions to add tangible value and quality-of-life enhancements to communities."
Last summer, Maggs, Whitehill and others related to Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science, Heinz School and business school collaborated with members of Glenville's business, educational and government sectors on the campus of Glenville State College (GSC) to begin the ongoing project of building the new network.
The new broadband network continues several technological and educational initiatives started by Larry R. Baker, associate vice president of technology at Glenville State College, who leads the effort for the Glenville community.
Congress established the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) in 1965 to support economic and social development in Appalachia. The ARC programs include part of 13 states and all of West Virginia.