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Wednesday, November 23, 2005  

Commentary: Bordens sought sameness

I have driven through Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. It is a semi-rural, sometimes sylvan area of dairy farms and modest businesses. The Amish provide local color. Lititz is best known for its chocolate factory, Wilbur Chocolate Company, as is Hershey. There are also some mock Bavarian buildings that draw attention. It took centuries for the population of Lititz to grow to its current 9,000 or so. Michael and Cathryn Borden, the couple apparently slain by their young daughter Kara's boyfriend, David Ludwig, last Sunday, relocated from South Carolina to Lititz seven to ten years ago. (Accounts differ.) Why would people move there? Most people wouldn't. Jobs are relatively scarce and often involve commutes to cities 30 minutes to an hour away. There's little in the way of cultural attractions. Still, there are reasons for a certain type of people to want to live in Lititz. What type? People who seek sameness. Census data explain.

As of the of 2000, there are 9,029 people, 3,732 households, and 2,407 families residing in the borough. The population density is 1,502.6/km² (3,884.0/mi²). There are 3,827 housing units at an average density of 636.9/km² (1,646.2/mi²). The racial makeup of the borough is 97.23% White, 0.44% African American, 0.09% Native American, 0.87% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.50% from other races, and 0.83% from two or more races. 1.52% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

The median income for a household in the borough is $40,417, and the median income for a family is $52,028. Males have a median income of $36,126 versus $25,997 for females. The per capita income for the borough is $20,601. 4.1% of the population and 2.6% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 3.9% of those under the age of 18 and 8.7% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

People who want everyone in their environment to look like them would probably find a town like Lititz reassuring. Philadelphia is only 60 miles away, but it might as well be on Mars for families who have opted out of the diversity of urban America. If you read between the lines, the data on gender and income is also telling. Women who work in Lititz earn only two-thirds of the income men do.

There is another reason why a couple like the Bordens would seek out Lititz. It is a haven for white fundamentalist and evangelical Christians, many of whom homeschool. And estimated one in ten children in Lancaster County is schooled at home.

A network of homeschool organizations has sprung up to provide support to the families in the form of tutoring, field trips for children and social gatherings. Most exclude non-Christian home schoolers. Some groups require that people sign agreements supporting their specific religious beliefs in order to participate. The groups are an alternative to allowing homeschooled children to mingle with those who participate in the public school system, which many Christian homeschoolers view with skepticism, if not contempt. A new state law that will allow homeschooled children to participate in extracurricular activities with public school pupils has met with ambivalence.

Parent Suzanne Ritchey is “torn.”

Ritchey lives just outside Neffsville and homeschools her four children.

On one hand, her family pays taxes, and her boys might want to play baseball for Manheim Township School District when they outgrow the recreation commission.

On the other hand, “Our family believes it’s best to rely solely on God and not usurp authority to the public school system,” Ritchey said.

The Bordens, members of a small reactionary sect known as the Plymouth Brethren, would have been particularly susceptible to such rigidity. The sect, founded in Ireland and England, is focused on strict adherence to 19th century tenets of Christianity and has an apocalyptic outlook. It does not recognize clergy, treating middle-aged and older men as leaders. Women are discouraged from playing an active role in worship and from working outside of the home.

Coverage of the Borden murders and ensuing investigation are rife with locals who declare the Bordens and Ludwig's the 'right kind of children'-- conservative and Christian.

"They were good kids and they were brought up very well. What I see is, they just made some bad choices," said Vera Zimmerman, 50, who has known the Bordens for seven years and is acquainted with Ludwig's mother.

Kara has been described by neighbors and friends as a bubbly, outgoing girl who occasionally baby-sat younger children in her neighborhood and liked to play soccer. She regularly attended youth group meetings and got along well with her sister, said Kevin Eshleman, executive pastor of Ephrata Community Church.

"In my mind, that generally indicates that things are going OK at home," Eshleman said.

Of course, the details emerging contradict the claim that all is well among the Christian homeschooling community there. At least one young teen who apparently stayed out all night with a man. A cache of 54 weapons in the Ludwig home. Video of another planned home invasion. Rumors that Kara Borden is at least the second girl that Ludwig has run off with. A conspiracy among homeschooled teens to keep information about the relationship between Kara Borden and Ludwig secret from adults.

The Bordens achieved their goal of living in a place where most people looked like them and thought like them. A large minority joined them in eschewing public and private education for their children, considering homeschooling superior because of its insular nature. But, they were not saved by sameness. Victims of violent crime usually know the offender -- a family member, friend or acquaintance. However, for some reason, perhaps cognitive dissonance, many people believe that trouble usually comes from outsiders. Cleave to sameness and shut out the Other, and you will be safe, they think. In Lititz, trouble has come from deep within.

What's the art?

A picture of Lititz Springs Park and Visitors Center.

9:40 PM

Friday, November 18, 2005  

News: David Ludwig reveals dark side of homeschooling

The homeschooling movement usually gets good press. That's partly because of demographics and organization. Homeschool parents are usually white, middle-class and articulate. The teaching parent, most often a stay at home mother, will present herself and her well-scrubbed brood as a slice of the supposedly idylic American past, circa 1950 or so. The fact that many homeschoolers are fundamentalist Christians helps, too. The fundamentalist and evangelistic sects are the strongest they've been in decades, deciding elections and influencing public policy. But, occasionally, a crack appears in the scrupulously maintained homeschooling facade. That has occurred this week with the flight to avoid prosecution, capture and charging of David Ludwig of picturesque Lititz, Pennsylvania. The homeschooled youth appears to have murdered his girlfriend's parents when they objected to an adult dating a child who would have been in junior high -- if she attended school. Yesterday, the revelations became even more disturbing. We learned investigators had discovered an arsenal in Ludwig's home.

CNN has the story.

LITITZ, Pa. (Nov. 17) - Police seized 54 guns from the home of an 18-year-old man charged with killing his girlfriend's parents and fleeing the state with her, according to court documents filed Thursday.

Warwick Township police removed the weapons, which included an array of rifles, shotguns, handguns and ammunition, on Sunday afternoon from the home where suspect David Ludwig lived with his parents. The search occurred as police were still trying to find him and 14-year-old Kara Beth Borden.

David Ludwig is being held without bail on murder and kidnapping charges after being flown back to Lancaster County on Tuesday from Indiana, where police captured him following a chase.

Police allege Ludwig shot Michael and Cathryn Borden shortly before 8 a.m. Sunday at their home in Lititz following an argument over his relationship with Kara. The two had been dating, apparently secretly, friends and witnesses said.

Ludwig is reportedly a hunter, but that does not explain the possession of such a large collection of weapons. (It may explain why the Bordens were killed with single, clean shots to the head. But, let's not rush to judgment. The suspect is innocent until proven guilty.)

The house full of guns was yesterday's news. Today's news is just as frightening. The Associated Press reports.

LITITZ, Pa. (AP) - An 18-year-old man accused of killing his girlfriend's parents and kidnapping her was videotaped discussing plans to conduct an armed raid on another family's home and kill people inside, according to court documents released Friday.

Police said another teen in the 18-minute video told them that the aborted break-in was among several such ``late night armed 'plans of forcible entry''' that he and David Ludwig conducted.

Ludwig and Samuel P. Lohr, 19, are shown in the video taking guns from Ludwig's house to a home and discussing using them to ``shoot and kill family members inside of the residence,'' according to a search warrant issued Thursday to Warwick Township police.

It's not known whose house was targeted, but it was not the home of Michael and Cathryn Borden, who were gunned down Sunday, investigators said.

The excuse that would have been offered -- that David Ludwig is a lone loon -- has been undermined before the home schooling movement could present it. The problems in Lititz are not about one or two home schoolees. As the investigation expands, other children and young adults who were aware of Ludwig's activities are likely to be implicated.

The arsenal and alleged plots offer clues to the dark side of the homeschooling movement. Though many home schooling parents may be merely separatists when it comes to allowing their children to interact with people who do not share their views, some are something worse than that. A deep strain of far Right beliefs runs through the homeschooling movement. Those beliefs include apocalyptic views based in religion, survivalist inclinations including caching weapons and ammunition, and patriarchal dispositions regarding the treatment of women. Homeschooling is common among adherents to the 'patriot movement', Christian Identity and white supremacist groups.

I have no objection to educational aspect of homeschooling. If a parent is qualified to teach a child better than the public or private schools, fine. After all, many parents tutor their schooled children. My qualms arise because of two non-educational aspects of the homeschooling movement: elitism and segregation. The message many homeschoolers are sending, usually politely, is: My children are better than yours. Expand that. They're saying their children are too good to be exposed to most of their peers. As a result of that attitude, homeschooled children are segregated from the norm. Not only do they not attend school, they are encouraged to associate only with other home schoolees. The result is a very heterogeneous, cult-like environment that doesn't prepare children for the heterogeneity of contemporary American life. It is a fecund environment for extremist views to take root. We are getting a glimpse into a homeschool community because of the Borden murders. Much of what we are seeing is evidence of what is wrong with the homeschooling movement.

Reasonably related

The Washington Post says David Ludwig's lawyer is trying to portray him sympathetically. The remarks were made before the news of the arsenal and alleged plans to commit home invasions were released.

3:30 PM

Wednesday, November 16, 2005  

Media: Ted Koppel leaving with lament

Ted Koppel definitely has a place on my list of most admired people. He is one of the newsmen and women who inspired me to become a journalist. One of the things I learned after achieving that goal is that most reporters are run-of-the-mill, seat warmers seeking a sinecure. Still, both broadcast news and print media sometimes exceed our expectations in providing insight into the issues and events of our times. Koppel is one of the minority of well-known journalists who make that happen. True to form, Koppel is taking the opportunity of his retirement from Nightline to take journalism to task for not doing enough.

The Washington Post recently discussed his semi-retirement with him.

Television executives, Koppel says, "live under the misapprehension that Americans don't care about foreign news. They don't care about boring news. If you present it in a boring fashion, then they don't care about foreign news. What really dictates here is the cost of foreign news. At a time that we really have to worry about what's going on in the rest of the world, what people in other countries think of us, we are less well informed by television news than we have been in many years.

"If the only time you cover foreign news is when you send someone, every foreign story is going to cost you a lot of money when you do it and likely to be less well informed than in the days when you had people who lived in the country for two, three, five, 10 years and understand the culture."

When I was in college, one of the words aspiring journalists learned was "Afghanistanism." The word meant a reference to a place so distant, and so irrelevant, that no one cared about it. Now, years later, we've learned that even Afghanistan is not the backwater we thought it was, that, indeed, it can be among the most newsworthy places on Earth. Though the word "Afghanistanism" has fallen into disuse, the attitudes of Westerners, including broadcast and print media executives, are still stuck in the past to an extent. It is doubtful that many of them will respond to Koppel's challenge that they spend more time and money on international news.

Fishbowl D.C. has also been giving some thought to Ted Koppel's departure.

Beginning the first of what we assume will be many a piece celebrating the end of the Ted Koppel's quarter century on the only late-night news show, Howard Kurtz looks at the legacy of the Nightline host as he prepares to step down later this month to pursue his own documentary projects:

Telling a story about Koppel's feelings on the war on Iraq, Kurtz opines, "It is classic Koppel: tough-minded, eloquent, focused on world affairs and sometimes, it seems, conducting his own foreign policy. As he prepares to relinquish the helm of the ABC program he launched 26 years ago, when his focus was entirely on Iran and the Americans held hostage there, it is hard to avoid the end-of-an-era language that followed the departures of Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather and the death of Peter Jennings."

Koppel's last show (just before Thanksgiving) will focus on Morrie Schwarz and the author of Tuesdays with Morrie, which Koppel told Washingtonian was his favorite interview from a career with many possibilities.

Koppel's Nightline would be a hard act for anyone to follow. It is disheartening that the ensemble that will be taking over the show includes a person known for melodramatic entertainment interviews, Martin Bashir. We can only hope that the name of one of the finest broadcast news shows ever will not be tarnished.

11:45 PM

Thursday, November 10, 2005  

Politics: Roy Moore will run for Ala. gov

The Montgomery Advertiser has state news of national consequence. A matter that should elicit yawns by now -- the separation of church and state -- can still be used to roil the waters and rile the masses. An Alabaman has decided to use fundamentalist fervor in much the same way another leader there used segregation de jure to his political advantage.

It's official.

Ousted Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is running for governor in 2006.

Moore, on Monday, announced his candidacy for the state's highest executive office. Montgomery resident Frank Hardy, a long-time Moore supporter and Republican, praised the former jurist for throwing his hat into the election ring.

"This country was founded on Christian principles, and I haven't seen anyone yet who will do the work that (former) Judge Moore will do," Hardy said. "I believe that he is the man for the job."

Local resident Jon Broadway had a different reaction.

"Oh, dear!" he said immediately after hearing about the announcement. "I can say safely that it would be the most tragic thing I can see for the state, to have him represent this state. It would make (former Gov.) George Wallace look like a distinguished gentlemen."

Moore likely will face incumbent Gov. Bob Riley, who is expected to announce whether he will run this weekend in the Republican primary next June.

The most irritating aspect is that Moore, a real life version of Sinclair Lewis' charismatic religious demagogue in the novel Elmer Gantry, has a real chance of winning. Not only have evangelical Christians urged him to seek higher office, some, including nationally recognized names such as Alan Keyes, have suggested a bid for the presidency. From Moore's perspective, the governorship of his state may appear to be small potatoes.

So, how did it happen? Some people would say that the current situation is based on Moore's imposition of a 5,000 pound granite monument on the Alabama judicial building after he was elected chief justice. That publicity stunt resulted in his being removed from office for violating the federal constitution in 2003. However, the roots of the evangelical fervor that leads some people to believe the country should be a Christian theocracy run deeper than that. The movement achieved significant strength in the 1920s. A consequence was passage of laws forbidding the teaching of evolution in about half the states. Such statutes were not deemed unconstitutional until 1968, when the Supreme Court of the United States heard Epperson v. Arkansas. The state supreme court had sidestepped the issue when a ruling allowing the teaching of evolution in public schools was appealed to it.

. . .Upon the principal issue, that of constitutionality, the court holds that Initiated Measure No. 1 of 1928, Ark.Stat.Ann. s 80-1627 and s 80--1628 (Repl. 1960), is a valid exercise of the state's power to specify the curriculum in its public schools. The court expresses no opinion on the question whether the Act prohibits any explanation of the theory of evolution or merely prohibits teaching that the theory is true; the answer not being necessary to a decision in the case, and the issue not having been raised.

SCOTUS reversed, rejecting the statutes because of their religious basis. It ruled that Arkansas was violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

Government in our democracy, state and national, must be neutral in matters of religious theory, doctrine, and practice. It may not be hostile to any religion or to the advocacy of noreligion; and it may not aid, foster, or promote one religion or religious theory against another or even against the militant opposite. The First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.

. . .In the present case, there can be no doubt that Arkansas has sought to prevent its teachers from discussing the theory of evolution because it is contrary to the belief of some that the Book of Genesis must be the exclusive source of doctrine as to the origin of man. No suggestion has been made that Arkansas' law may be justified by considerations of state policy other than the religious views of some of its citizens. It is clear that fundamentalist sectarian conviction was and is the law's reason for existence.

Its antecedent, Tennessee's 'monkey law,' candidly stated its purpose: to make it unlawful 'to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.' Perhaps the sensational publicity attendant upon the Scopes trial induced Arkansas to adopt less explicit language. It eliminated Tennessee's reference to 'the story of the Divine Creation of man' as taught in the Bible, but there is no doubt that the motivation for the law was the same: to suppress the teaching of a theory which, it was thought, 'denied' the divine creation of man.

Arkansas' law cannot be defended as an act of religious neutrality. Arkansas did not seek to excise from the curricula of its schools and universities all discussion of the origin of man. The law's effort was confined to an attempt to blot out a particular theory because of its supposed conflict with the Biblical account, literally read. Plainly, the law is contrary to the mandate of the First, and in violation of the Fourteenth, Amendment to the Constitution.

After being removed from the court, Moore made a career of lecturing and touring with the Ten Commandments monument, called "Roy's Rock." He set up a political apparatus for himself that has resulted in incredible popularity throughout the South. His patronage also was a determining factor in his former aide, Tom Potter, being elected to the Supreme Court he had been ejected from.

If Moore is successful in achieving gubernatorial office in Alabama, the nation will be treated to historical deja vu. The situation that the Scopes trial was supposedly the death knell to, and that Epperson made officially verboten, will have reoccurred. There will be a state government that seeks to use religion as the foundation for its laws. Moore's popularity, and, the possibility that he can achieve this goal, reminds us that, for many Americans, an evolution in thinking about the roles of science and religion has not occurred.

6:15 PM

Monday, November 07, 2005  

News: Why Paris is burning

Now in their second week, the riots in France are no longer dismissible as an oddity. Sparked by the accidental deaths of two young teens who believed they were fleeing the police, the disorders have resulted in extensive damage to vehicles and property. Today, the New York Times reported a man was beaten to death after trying to put out a fire set by protesters. It is imperative that we consider why immigrant youths there are so angry. We must ask:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore--
And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

The unrest in France has given us an answer to that question as Arab and African youths, children of mainly Muslim immigrants, act out their disdain for a society they believe discriminates against and rejects them.

I think major media has done an effective job of covering the unrest -- reporting what is happening, and also reporting why.

The Associated Press has been covering the continuing violence.

The unrest is forcing France to confront long-simmering anger in poor suburbs ringing the big cities which are mainly populated by immigrants and their French-born families, often from Muslim North Africa. They are marked by high unemployment, discrimination and despair - fertile terrain for crime of all sorts and Muslim extremists offering frustrated youths a way out.

Government officials have held a series of meetings with Muslim religious leaders, local officials and youths from poor suburbs to try to calm the violence.

The director of the Great Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, one of the country's leading Muslim figures, met Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin on Saturday and urged the government to choose its words carefully and send a message of peace.

``In such difficult circumstances, every word counts,'' Boubakeur said.

. . .Most of the overnight arrests were near Paris. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy warned that those convicted could face severe sentences for burning cars.

"Violence penalizes those who live in the toughest conditions,'' he said after a government crisis meeting.

Sarkozy also has inflamed passions by referring to troublemakers as ``scum.''

The Wall Street Journal has also offered balanced reportage (subscription required.)

The violence spread to other cities that have concentrations of Arab and African Muslim immigrants, including Strasbourg in eastern France and Cannes and Nice in the south. It also penetrated the previously untouched rich center of Paris, when two dozen cars were burned in the capital's historic Third Arrondissement and other areas. Authorities said Sunday that 1,295 cars were burned Saturday night around France, the highest toll since the riots began Oct. 27. Police made 186 arrests, bringing the total to more than 800 since the riots started. Dozens more public buildings were vandalized over the weekend. Bands of youths burned a nursery school, torched an ambulance and stoned medical workers coming to the aid of a sick person.

. . .Mr. [President Jacques] Chirac's team has so far failed to get a grip on the mobs -- and is being accused by many of making things worse. The unrest quickly spread from Clichy-sous-Bois to other Paris suburbs after Interior Minister and presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy called the rioters "thugs" and "scum" in an appearance on television news.

Despite the harsh words he aimed at rioters, Mr. Sarkozy is one of France's few mainstream politicians who champion greater rights for immigrants. He recently stirred controversy in his own center-right ruling party by proposing to let immigrants vote in local elections. He also was one of the first French politicians to call for affirmative action to help immigrants gain a role alongside France's all-white elite.

In France, frank public discussion of the plight of minorities is made difficult by the state's republican ideology. In official French thinking, the only thing that matters is whether a resident is a French citizen or not. The French census doesn't tally people by creed or ethnic background.

In reality, minority groups suffer much greater rates of joblessness than the white majority, and France has no national political leaders of Arab or African origin. A few businesses and schools have only just begun experimenting, cautiously, with small affirmative action programs.

The Washington Post also realizes that events have causes.

While French politicians say the violence now circling and even entering the capital of France and spreading to towns across the country is the work of organized criminal gangs, the residents of Le Blanc-Mesnil know better. Many of the rioters grew up playing soccer on [Mohammed] Rezzoug's field. They are the children of baggage handlers at nearby Charles de Gaulle International Airport and cleaners at the local schools.

"It's not a political revolution or a Muslim revolution," said Rezzoug. "There's a lot of rage. Through this burning, they're saying, 'I exist, I'm here.' "

Such a dramatic demand for recognition underscores the chasm between the fastest growing segment of France's population and the staid political hierarchy that has been inept at responding to societal shifts. The youths rampaging through France's poorest neighborhoods are the French-born children of African and Arab immigrants, the most neglected of the country's citizens. A large percentage are members of the Muslim community that accounts for about 10 percent of France's 60 million people.

Unfortunately, the Right Wing dominated blogosphere is largely missing the point of the riots in France. As is typical of white conservatives, these bloggers view the situation through a lens distorted by religious bigotry and racism. Many of them blame the violence on the 'nature' of blacks and Muslims. Don Surber's entry is rather typical.

My take is this is inevitable, more like the French Revolution than the Watts Riots. The possibility of my being wrong is 40% or better. But between European socialism and its inability to assimilate its immigrants, Europe is pretty screwed. Add on top of it a continent that has been inventing PC "rights" instead of political solutions, and well, you have the tinder for a revolution.

For those of us who grew up in big cities in the 1960s, the situation is eerily familiar.

I am curious to see how the various nations of Europe handle this inevitable confrontation. I wonder at what point they will publicly admit what is now coming clear: Giving aid and comfort to Palestinian terrorists eventually comes home to roost; the wolf eventually devours all the lambs.

WaPo's Molly Moore has a frontline report that consists of one man basically denying this is a Muslim thing. It just happens to be that all the rioters are Muslime (sic). (Eyeroll.)

Surber is referring to the same article I cited above. Moore reported that the immigrants and their French children are treated as second-class citizens, disproportionately poor, unemployed and disenfranchised. According to Surber that is irrelevant. Indeed, you will find no mention of the conditions immigrants live in his remarks. All we need to know about the angry youths in Paris is their race and religion, he would have us believe. The bigotry and sloppy thinking of persons like him notwithstanding, neither race nor religion explain the unrest in France. The circumstances of the French born youths are key to understanding why they have resorted to violence -- why a raisin in the sun explodes.

Reasonably related

The poem ""Montage of a Dream Deferred" was written by Langston Hughes (1902-1967).

7:30 PM

Wednesday, November 02, 2005  

Technology: Wi-Fi firms seek to Unwire Portland

Portland, Oregon joined the far flung constellation of American cities seeking to offer low price wireless connections throughout their areas yesterday. A half-dozen Wi-Fi providers submitted bids for the city's contract. Two of the biggest names that had expressed interest, local wired line provider Qwest Communications International Inc. and Hewlett Packard Co., dropped out of the process. That left an 800-pound gorilla and some chimpanzees. The Oregonian has been following the plan for the network for a couple years. It reported who the actual contenders are.

Five small companies and one giant applied Monday to take Portland wireless.

Internet service provider EarthLink Inc. is the biggest name in the bunch, joined by wireless companies from around the country and one from Portland. All are vying to build a network that would jointly serve the city and its residents, making high-speed, wireless Internet access available practically anywhere people have computers.

Monday afternoon was the deadline for companies to submit proposals for the Unwire Portland project. Plans tentatively call for the city to pick a winner by year-end and begin negotiating contract specifics. Portland hopes parts of the network will be online early in 2006, though it could take years to build out the entire project.

Details of each proposal will remain under wraps until the city picks a favorite, but bidders themselves have volunteered some details:

EarthLink, VeriLAN Inc. and MobilePro Corp. all indicated they expect wireless access would cost around $20 a month. That's on par with introductory rates for DSL service.

Bidders seem inclined to accept Portland's request that the network be open to competitors. Most proposals would allow rival Internet companies wholesale access to the Portland network, so they could use the network to serve their own customers.

. . .Bidders will be evaluated based on the "public benefit" their work would provide, the technology they plan to use, their proposed fees, business plans and ability to follow through.

The other competitors are said to be MetroFi Inc., of Silicon Valley, Cal., U.S. Internet Corp. of Minneapolis and Winfield Wireless of Vancouver. Estimated cost of building the city-wide network is $15 to $30 million. The expense will be eased by use of city-owned buildings and power poles for transmitters and other gear.

Qwest, which is saddled with debt, reportedly did not believe it would be able to build and operate the wireless network at a profit. HP recently failed to win a contract for a similar project in Philadelphia. Earthlink prevailed there.

Currently, plans for broad wireless networks subsidized by cities are mainly pie in the sky. Wi-Fi access is available through relatively expensive ancillary providers such as Tmobile, Wayport and Boingo Wireless. Combined with bills from cable modem or DSL service, as well as land lines and cell phones, they can result in communications costs of hundreds of dollars per month per household. A goal of wireless network projects is to reduce the cost of being online to a modest fee that even the low-income can afford. It is hoped that the Digital Divide -- the tendency of the affluent to be more likely to have home Internet service and better, faster forms of it -- will be ameliorated by citywide networks. Another hope is that the availability of omnipresent access will make communication within government more efficient.

Reasonably related

Learn the details of Portland's wireless network plan, including maps of the initial zones to be included, at Daily Wireless.

7:00 PM