[PLUG-TALK] Cable modems: rent or buy?

Michael M. Moore moore.michael.m at gmail.com
Wed Mar 2 18:36:12 PST 2011

On 03/02/2011 04:03 PM, Russell Senior wrote:
>>>>>> "Michael" == Michael M Moore<moore.michael.m at gmail.com>  writes:
> Michael>  [...]  Of course, that doesn't stop
> Michael>  the City of Portland from continuing to spend taxpayer
> Michael>  dollars on fancy smartphone apps that can only be enjoyed by
> Michael>  those who can afford smartphones, or continuing to refer
> Michael>  residents to websites to access information, submit
> Michael>  applications, etc., etc., even though a significant portion
> Michael>  of residents can't afford Internet access.
> The City of Portland is not spending taxpayer money on fancy
> smartphone apps.  They *are* working on making more public data
> available so that others can write smartphone apps.

Good to hear.  They should make it clearer.  For instance, Jonathan Maus 
[1] posted a little ditty about how much he loves the new Public Art 
iPhone app, "developed in a collaboration between Adams' office, the 
City of Portland, the Regional Arts and Culture Council and local app 
developer Matt Blair."  To me, that makes it sound like the city is 
spending money, as does this from the app's [2] website:

"Created in collaboration with the Regional Arts & Culture Council, the 
City of Portland’s Bureau of Technology Services and the staff of Mayor 
Sam Adams. See the About page for more information."

And it's not that I think the city, county, state, etc., shouldn't make 
data accessible online or encourage development of shiny smartphone 
apps.  But I do think government has some obligation to provide more 
robust and widespread online access if they are going to turn to online 
means of civic engagement.  Increasingly, more and more agencies are 
soliciting feedback and engagement online primarily.  Metro, for 
instance, has launched [3] Opt In to help them solicit community 
feedback.  There are no equivalent public meetings.  Likewise, the 
Oregon [4] Health System Transformation Team has been soliciting online 
feedback for their work on reshaping health care.  Their meetings are 
public (if you can get to Salem), but there's no opportunity for public 
testimony or feedback in person.  You have to provide it online.

> As it happens, I am on a work group right now helping to develop a
> Broadband Strategic Plan for the City.  They aren't paying me
> anything.

I hope something comes of it.

> The City does refer people to websites, because that reduces their
> costs and reduces the burden on taxpayers for a given level of
> service.  Everything I've heard indicates that they recognize that
> city services need to remain accessible in multiple forms, not just
> online.  In many ways, access remains restricted to old-technology.
> You have to physically show up to participate in public meetings.  I
> seem to recall that bids must be submitted in hardcopy.

I think that's true when it comes to city services, at least so far. 
It's becoming less and less true when it comes to civic engagement. 
During last week's weather "emergency" (our most recent collective 
breakdown over the slightest possibility that it might snow up to an 
entire inch in the valley), I was listening to OPB (you know, "public" 
radio) all morning as they gave the odd bit of information about some 
closures and kept saying "Check our website for more lists of school and 
municipal closures" and so on.  It used to be a function of media -- 
especially the ostensibly "public" media -- to use the public airwaves 
to inform the citizenry.  Nowadays if you want the whole story you have 
to go online.

> Also, anybody in the City *has* access via places like the Multnomah
> County Library.  It isn't always the most convenient, but it's there.

Yes, during the Library's hours.  The last time I used the library's 
computers they were still running IE6 and I would get warnings from 
gmail about how my browser wasn't supported anymore.  The last time I 
used the wifi at my local library I couldn't get portlandonline.com to 
load, despite repeated attempts.



[2] http://publicartpdx.com/

[3] http://www.optinpanel.org/

[4] http://www.oregon.gov/OHA/health-system-transformation.shtml

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