The following text is a transcription of the parting speech of Adam Shand, Founder of the Personal Telco Project in Portland Oregon. The recording comes from the June 2003 General Meeting.
Hey everybody. There's some new faces, there's a few I'm recognizing here. I'm Adam Shand. I was the guy who started this a couple years ago now I guess. So primarily this is just here to say bye to everyone. I got a job offer and I'm heading back to New Zealand to go work for the company that does all the special effects for the Lord of the Rings. So I'm out of here this Friday, they gave me a little under three weeks to actually get there. So, I haven't been around for a while and I'm probably not gonna be around on the mailing lists or anything for a while to come. I hope to resubscribe in a month or something once I'm settled and have an apartment and all that stuff and keep poking around. At least until my term of president is officially up.
I want to say a couple things. The first is I believe, so we got, sorry, my term as president is up in August. I got a one year term after we first became a non-profit last year. This month's meeting everybody that was nominated as a potential presidential candidate was going to have a moment to get up and speak. I assume we haven't gotten to that point yet. As far as I know Nigel is the only one that has been nominated yet, though I assume we'll probably get some more.
I just wanted to weigh in and say that Nigel's been around pretty much since the very beginning. He's mostly been the public face of PTP for over a year now since I got busy and wasn't able to talk to reporters. Nigel always had a job that liked him when he talked to people. My jobs always got grumpy with me when I went outside to talk to a reporter for half an hour. So I think Nigel has already been doing a lot of the presidential duties. Certainly well known around town both among the press, local businesses, the city, so I think that could be a pretty valuable (valuable connections) and I think he's a pretty good choice for the role. Hopefully we'll get at least one other person nominated, if nothing else give him a run for his money. But I don't know if anyone else wants the job.
So I was thinking the other day, and I kind of realized that there's really two dreams that are wrapped up in PTP and I just wanted to take a moment and talk about those, 'cause I think they're both important, I think they're both quite different and I think it's important that we remember that there are two different parts of this. The first part, and I think the reason why a lot of people are here, is because wireless is really interesting, it's really fun and people like being able to go to coffee shops to check their email, hang out, talk to people online, download stuff, whatever. There are a lot of people who are involved because they want to learn about wireless, they want to learn about computers and they want to be able to have sort of casual free access to the Internet. That's really cool, but that was never what got me excited about PTP. That was never the part of it that I really loved.
What I really liked about it is the idea that we can use all of this technology, that we can use free software, in sort of the freedom sense of the word, and we can actually build a replacement to the last mile. We could actually build a wireless cloud that sits over Portland where we could be sitting here and everybody could be getting access over this wireless network to home, or to work, or to their friends. They could be talking to people they don't know or people they might want to know and there's not a damn thing that anybody can do to get in their way and stop them because we own the network. That is what I always liked about PTP and that's something that we haven't done a lot of yet.
We've done really well at building hotspots. We've done pretty well at educating people and getting business, communities and starting to get the city involved. These are all really important things. We've just gotten our non-profit status. Well we got our non profit status last year and we've just gotten our 501(c)(3) federal tax exception status. These are all really, especially that last one, pretty big things. But for me anyway what I'd like to, as I leave, remind everybody of is that one of the really cool things we have, we can do with this, is we can do things like build this wireless network and bring it into economically underserved areas. I mean we can use this as a digital divide tool. If this wireless network exists and if it is supported by the community then we can go into poor places in north Portland. We can write tools and documentation and let third world counties use it or other places. There are lots of places, even in cities like Portland that are pretty well served by broadband that its just not worth the while of Qwest to install the dslam. Even though there's people there that would and could buy the service, Qwest doesn't care because they can't make enough money to put a dslam there. That sucks. Those are the goals this technology can and should be used to solve, I think. Those are the goals that a community group and a non-profit are particularly well suited to do.
It's easy for all of us, especially the technical people, of which I am one, to get distracted by the flashing lights and the toys and just want to play with what's new and forget that the reason that PTP exists is to build this network, to help out the community and build the community, enlarge the community, enrich the community. That's why we're supposed to be here.
All the other stuff, the setting up hotspots in cool places like Pioneer Square, the south park blocks, and here, working with local businesses.... all this stuff is important, it's great, it's how we get acceptance, it's how people learn about us. But hopefully it's all a means to the end where we can actually do something really cool and that will last.
I know some people just don't care. I know some people think it's a great idea but it's too ambitious and we'll never get there. But this this is, I think, the heart of PTP and this is why at least some of us keep coming back. I don't know quite what I'm saying other than just reminding people this is what I think is important and this is what I really want to see PTP become. We've come a long way towards getting in a position where we can do those things but we're not there yet. We built all this groundwork but now we really just need to see this final push to bring it all together and make that last bit actually happen.
So... that's all I got to say... (applause) I hope you guys do really well. I hope to be reading about you in the paper and hearing that you're doing even better after I've gone than you were while I was here. (applause)