Hackathon leads to free Internet access for underserved areas

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- In the wake of the South Carolina security breach, the word hacking has a very negative connotation, but in reality, hacking does not always mean stealing information.

The way it was explained to News 12, hacking just means understanding a system of rules and codes, and a local group called "Hack Augusta" is using its powers for good.

“We actually kind of designed our logo to look a little like a superhero emblem because that's how we like to think of ourselves -- the Avengers of Augusta coming in and doing good," said member of “Hack Augusta” Eric Parker.

After an 18-hour hackathon straight through the night, this group of designers, engineers and entrepreneurs say they have come up with something that will change the game when it comes to Internet access.

Dr. Anthony Robinson says they created "a wireless area, a hot spot, that can serve underserved communities."

“Our hope is that Operation Lighthouse is something that we can go into any neighborhood, really anywhere in the country, and for about a thousand, $1,500, here's a network that everybody in your neighborhood can use," Parker said.

An antenna they designed can provide wireless access up to half a mile away, but it doesn't stop there.

They created another little device called a "raspberry pie." It’s essentially a computer and can be made for only $35.

In a disaster area, like New York City after Hurricane Sandy, that could mean survival.

“The beauty of this is with a satellite connection you could take this and you could put it on a rooftop in New York City. Right now we could create an entire network for a city in really the span of half a day,” Parker said.

These guys are starting local.

“We want to roll into Harrisburg first, and if we can get enough funding for the project, we'd like to start going into other neighborhoods throughout the Augusta area,” Parker said.

The way they see it, everyone benefits.

“Win for the businesses, win for the community and win for the developers that will soon be the new start-up economy in Augusta,” Robinson said.

Parker says their biggest hope is to give underserved areas access to educational resources that are online.

They say raising just $3,000 will be enough to build the tools to provide Internet for one neighborhood for an entire year.


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