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This U.K. City Wants You to Walk on Its Wi-Fi-Enabled Pavement

Residents of Chesham are set for a high tech internet upgrade thanks to some very smart sidewalks.

via virgin media

When we think of Wi-Fi signals, we likely imagine them buzzing (buzzing, right?) through the air—from our laptops, to our tablets, to our phones, and out again into the ether. However, in the town of Chesham, located in England’s Chiltern District, a new public Wi-Fi initiative will embed high-speed internet connectivity directly into the pavement beneath the feet of residents, instead.


Virgin Media, in partnership with the Chiltern District Council, announced plans last week to “blanket Chesham’s high street with superfast Wi-Fi” able to accommodate up to 166 megabits per second, or about seven times faster than the United Kingdom’s average broadband speed. To do so, the city will employ what Virgin calls “Smart Pavement,” which “connects directly to Virgin Media’s fiber network and provides ultrafast Wi-Fi via a submerged access point beneath a specially developed resin cover.”

In a release put out by Virgin, Chesham’s town counselor, Fred Wilson, contextualized the significance of this initiative, saying:

“I am delighted that we’ve been able to bring a U.K. first to Chesham with Virgin Media’s ultrafast Wi-Fi, helping local people and businesses get online. Efficient connectivity is pivotal to running businesses today and I am proud we are part of a project which is crossing new boundaries.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by local businessperson and spokesperson for the Better Chesham Group, Martin Parkes:

“It’s great that our customers have access to Virgin Media’s public Wi-Fi both in and outside our salon. We're a very unique high street with many independent shops so we don't have the IT infrastructure that big chains benefit from. This will hugely help levelling the playing field and will hopefully bring more people to Chesham too.”

Repurposing ubiquitous civic fixtures is becoming more and more common as cities look to upgrade their high-tech capacity without drastically changing their streets’ facades. For example, plans to revamp New York’s Times Square include a series of relatively unassuming granite benches, each dozens of feet long. Inside each bench, however will be a a series of fiber optic cables and chords, connected to the city’s power grid, capable of providing electricity for future events, such as concerts, in the much-trafficked plaza.

Virgin chose to launch their Wi-Fi-enabled sidewalks in Chesham because, the company explains:

“Chesham is demographically representative of the U.K. population as a whole and is of a size that allows a quick deployment of services across the whole town, rather than specific locations. In addition, there is a significant presence of independent businesses in the town centre that allow for local level discussions when piloting new ideas and technology.”

In other words, if this Smart Pavement experiment proves to be a success there, it’s possible that we’ll all be walking on Wi-Fi someday down the line.

[via ifl science, virgin media]

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The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

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Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

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"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

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The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.





Culture
Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

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A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

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