Thursday, December 23, 2004

A homeboy unwires Daugavpils

This one flew under this blogger's radar about a month ago. It seems that Belam Latvia, a subsidiary of Belam Inc in the US, used Trade Development Agency funds to set up a pilot/demonstration largely wireless network linking municipal agencies, small town governments, libraries, etc, with private network, internet and voice-over-IP services in and around the eastern Latvian city of Daugavpils. Around USD 400 000 was spent on the project, USD 300 000 from the TDA and USD 100 o00 from Belam Inc. Belam is an agent for the telecoms equipment maker Nortel, which is headquartered in Canada, but does most of its development and manufacturing in the US.
Mark Katz, the president of Belam Latvia, is especially proud of this project, since he was born and raised in Daugavpils and has opened his home town and surrounding villages to the information age. Whether other, perhaps wealthier (Latgale, Eastern Latvia, is seen as an underdeveloped and poor region) municipalities follow suit remains to be seen. Certainly the idea of publically financed, wireless or fiber municipal area networks is once which is competing against commercial service providers in the US and Western Europe.
Christmas approaches and here at the editorial offices of my day job, we have all been sipping gluehwein (hot spiced wine), so I can be excused for makings some wacko observations. Katz of Belam was an avid fencer in high school and bears a more than slight resemblance to the American 1950s actor Guy Williams who played the swashbuckling mysterious Zorro on TV. So perhaps this homeboy from Daugavpils is a kind of Cyber-Zorro bringing the internet to the poor with the money of the rich US?

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