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Some Other Last Miles For Broadband

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What most refer to as “the last mile” is the last little bit of space between high-speed broadband lines and homes. But for others, the last mile is getting digital information to those who have a harder time accessing it. For one British entrepreneur, it is the blind who struggle traversing that last mile – for US politicians, the poor.

The BBC tells the tale of Chris Mairs, a blind entrepreneur who has developed an inexpensive gadget called The SpeakOn, a Linux-based, simplified computer that accesses the audio Web.

Funded by Mairs’ technological charity A-Technic, the device has a 12-key type pad allowing blind or partially sighted people to more easily navigate a walled garden of MP3 files, radio stations, podcasts, and periodicals like those provided by the Talking Newspaper Association.

Mairs says the gadget, which will retail for around $565, has a distinct advantage over assistive technologies called screen readers:

“To use a screenreader you have to understand the visual paradigm – what dialogue boxes are, radio buttons and all the rest,” he told the BBC News website.

“That’s the wrong model as far as I’m concerned – what you really want is a model that is intrinsically orientated towards a one-dimensional audio stream.”

Back in the States, US Senators John McCain and Barack Obama are serving as honorary co-chairs for a non-profit organization called One Economy. One-Economy is currently raising funds to launch a project called the Public Internet Channel.

Its goal is to provide low-income Americans free and easy access to vital information on public safety, emergency services, education, health care, and jobs.

“The Public Internet Channel can do for accessing social services what Yahoo! has done for accessing entertainment or what Craigslist has done for accessing local goods for sale,” said Obama.

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Some Other Last Miles For Broadband
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