March 1, 2006 12:16 PM PST

Burning Man vets bring Wi-Fi to Katrina region

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John Chier, Kyocera director of communications, said that Price's phone call gave the company a chance to live up to what he said is a longstanding corporate philosophy of helping out when it can.

"The opportunity was many-faceted for us," said Chier. "The opportunity to work with (Price) to support what sounded like a very noteworthy and noble cause, to get this town back on its feet, and an opportunity to put a KR1 mobile router in the middle of a high-stress environment and let it show its stripes."

For Price and other members of Burners Without Borders, being able to reliably get online has been a boon. And that's not surprising, he said, given that the group is comprised largely of people who normally rely on the Internet to organize.

The group has depended on donations from the Internet-savvy community of Burning Man attendees and beyond to stay in Mississippi, Price said. The money is needed for items such as the $200 daily diesel fuel tab for the heavy equipment they use to tear down badly damaged buildings and homes.

And because many of those donations were coordinated via the Internet, it has been crucial for the group to get online, even when it looked like it would never be possible to get so much as a dial-up connection.

"The (phone company) is overwhelmed," Price said. "It's difficult to exaggerate the level of destruction here...none of the timelines for providing any services have ever been met. People have stopped counting on that sort of thing. This is an environment where you really have to be incredibly self-reliant, and fortunately that's something we know how to do."

Indeed, as veterans of many years of the Burning Man festival--held in the inhospitable Black Rock Desert where there is no water and dust storms are common--the group has learned how to solve difficult technological problems in rough environs.

Getting their hands on equipment like the Kyocera router and running it off a solar cell has made it possible for the group to once again bring technology into an area that still has few of the conveniences of modern America.

And Price thinks that all disaster relief agencies and organizations should look at the new Kyocera technology as something they will never want to be without.

"It's amazing, and this is the kind of wonder technology that the Internet always promised us," he said. "For groups working in a disaster zone, this should be as much a part of their equipment as generators, chainsaws and camping gear. For people working in a place where normal services have fallen apart, this is absolutely must-have equipment."

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4 comments

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Sad
Sad to see, that the authorities, at state and federal level, hiding in ivory towers, blaming all but themselves, over their inherent inability to grapple all aspects of the katrina disaster, whilst starving the locals of much needed relief funds, and simultaneously leaving the lions share of the work to the remaining locals and volunteers!

What, a true waste of taxpayer funds to continue to employ these seat polishers!

But then again, the only time we ever get to see these incompetents, is election time when they emerge to make fictitious promises, then proceed to disappear after the vote has counted and resume business as usual!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
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Very Cool!
Leave it to the Burners to take the values of self reliance, technology and gifting and form them into something that stretches technology and humanity.

Kudos to Kyocera for grasping a great marketing idea and running with it.
Posted by (2 comments )
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St. Bernard Parish, LA needs WI-FI too
I just returned from visiting friends in St. Bernard Parish, LA. The parish was completely wiped out by Katrina and there has been precious little done by the various federal agencies to restore the area in the past 6 months. I brought my laptop along so my girlfriend could sign up for assistance from her former employer. We had to drive to Metarie, 42 miles from her home, to get Internet access. I know the folks in the parish would really appreciate it if someone brought WI-FI there too. Thanks for all your good work. It seems as if most of the progress made in the Gulf is accomplished by individual efforts like yours.
Posted by cardinalbird2 (13 comments )
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internet access in st bernard
have you received any response to your email, i chair a charitable
foundation that is researching the best way to help out in area
communities. post the storm in many communities we could
accesss the internet via the library. i have considered proposing
this idea by joining with other organizations to fund a site for
residents. if you don't mind let me know if you receive any
feedback!
Posted by Susan Bopp (1 comment )
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