Big problem may yield to small answer

For the past couple of years, a number of islanders have been trying to figure out how to make high-capacity internet access available here. It’s a critical tool, they say, to luring the kind of high-tech, environmentally friendly business that the island wants to promote, and a number of surveys indicate that it’s a resource much desired by a high proportion of us.

The prevailing thinking has been that this task is a natural for some form of public-private partnership. The public, in the form of the Kitsap Public Utilities District, is still on track to bring a fiber-optic “backbone” to Bainbridge, creating an enormously large information “pipe.”

The problem, though, is the so-called “last mile,” the infrastructure needed to connect that data pipe to individual homes. With the phone company paying attention to its own problems, further wiring of Bainbridge isn’t on its radar screen, so both city and private task groups have been casting about for alternatives.

As reported on today’s business page, it turns out that there may be an easy, cheap and practical solution, at least in some neighborhoods – lease a high-capacity line, put up an antenna, and share the costs with everyone in line-of-sight radius.

It reminds us a little of the old-fashioned telephone party lines, where a number of neighbors shared the same line. With wireless internet, though, we are assured that everyone can use the line at once, and that unlike those party lines, you can’t eavesdrop on your neighbor’s conversations.

Those getting into the field say the hard part of doing it yourself is the software, particularly developing an identification system. You could try to do that yourself, or you could call BI Wireless, the company that is offering high-speed internet access to Eagle Harbor from its headquarters at the Pub.

What we like about this wireless approach is the fact that it doesn’t appear to require meetings, governmental action or funding. If you and your neighbors – those in plain sight, at least – want high-speed internet access, there’s no reason you can’t just do it yourselves.

While we encourage our city government and civic task forces to take an active interest in issues of concern to the citizens, we also toast the idea of a few buddies solving a problem over a beer or two. Meetings are congenial, more interesting and shorter. And sometimes, the solution is at least as good.

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