Harrisburg gets Internet hot spot

Monday, March 18, 2013 9:51 PM
Last updated Tuesday, March 19, 2013 2:06 AM
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A simple antenna sits on top of Salon 606’s brick chimney in Harrisburg.

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Eric Parker helped found The Clubhou.se, a collaborative downtown workspace for people dealing with technology.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN
Eric Parker helped found The Clubhou.se, a collaborative downtown workspace for people dealing with technology.

To dozens of families in the half-mile radius, that piece of metal can mean access to educational resources, employment searches and other daily benefits the Internet can offer.

On Monday, members of the new collaborative workspace group The Clubhou.se and non-profit SmartKids.sc revealed the installation of a wireless Internet hot spot in Harrisburg.

The hot spot at 606 Crawford Ave. is the first of planned installations in low-income neighborhoods, a project that Clubhou.se
members call Operation Lighthouse.

“It works two ways because it provides the Internet to people who don’t have it, and it makes us aware of the people in the area around us,” said Clubhou.se co-founder Eric Parker.

The idea sprouted in No­vem­ber between a group of tech-savvy professionals attending the CSRA Innovation Festival and Hackathon in Augusta. The group wanted to give residents in low-income areas free access to the Internet and exposure to educational resources. About a month later, several of those tech people launched The Clubhou.se on Broad Street, a workspace where members pay $100 a month to collaborate on projects or just absorb inspiration from working alongside other professionals in a shared space.

Some members construct robots, tear apart computers or build Web sites there. The roughly 24 members also hold workshops and open houses for the public.

They organized the hot spot in Harrisburg by contacting Salon 606 owner Butch Palmer and arranging to keep the modem and antenna at his salon.

The group fronted the initial $500 to purchase hardware and will pay $50 a month to keep the service going. It hopes to hold information sessions periodically to teach residents and children how to program and operate computers, said Clubhou.se
co-founder Ed Elser.

Clubhou.se members acknowledged that many of the lower-income residents don’t own a computer, but they plan to address that issue.

Elser said his group hopes to distribute such devices as the Raspberry Pi, a credit card-size computer that plugs into a television.

At the hot spot unveiling, Augusta Mayor Deke Copen­haver said The Clubhou.se is playing a key role in bridging the digital divide at a time when Augusta was recently named second in the nation for job growth in the technology sector.

“It’s great to see good things happening in Harris­burg,” Copenhaver said.

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Bulldog 03/19/13 - 08:35 am

On behalf of the Harrisburg community, we greatly appreciate this outreach. This project should greatly improve access to the world for the children of our area.

countyman 03/19/13 - 01:41 pm

Awesome! This is great news, because some people think Harrisburg is worse off than it really is. The area of the neighborhood going towards Summerville is manicured lawns. The portion between Eve and 15th street needs the major attention.

Let's expand the service into East Augusta, Bethlehem, Laney Walker, Turpin Hill, and the older portion of South Augusta inside I-520.

David Parker
David Parker 03/20/13 - 03:31 pm
Congratulations to Clubhou.se

Congratulations to Clubhou.se and Smartkids.sc. Harrisburg, you have good folks working with you and the opportunity is there for the taking. Enjoy it and keep'm all busy, from what I see, they love working overtime for it's own sake.

warsurplus 03/21/13 - 06:13 pm
Altruistic but....

I commend the group for funding a project like this to help others in our community but now that the cost for broadband internet service has come down to as little as $15 per month from providers like our local telco for DSL service, are they really bridging a divide? A decade ago when broadband service was a luxury at a high cost this would have a more significant impact. Even low income families should now be able to afford $15 per month. I would wager that many of these target families pay for cable or satellite TV services at more than twice the cost of broadband internet service.

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