Regional Wireless and Rust Belt Recovery

I'm out in the Silicon Valley for a few days, seeing friends and family and giving a presentation. But Pittsburgh's prospects and problems are never far away. To the north, Seattle P-I columnist wrote this generous comparison of the regional economic issues facing Seattle and Pittsburgh. We may think of Seattle as a high-tech mecca, but Boeing still casts a long shadow, and the technology industry there is still largely Microsoft and a cast of much, much smaller firms.

Meanwhile, the San Jose Mercury News brings word of "Smart Valley," a proposal to build a Silicon Valley-wide wireless network. The proposal is the brainchild of a government/industry consortium called Joint Venture:Silicon Valley. There are huge technical issues to work out, and the cost will be fantastic. The incumbent wireless carriers will fight it tooth and nail. Who knows if this will come to fruition?

The fact that the plan comes from a respected group of local business leaders is itself significant; this place has a "dream big and build it" mentality that is completely foreign to Western PA. If you need any further evidence of the difference between how Pittsburgh views the future and how an entrepreneurial high technology region thinks about the future, check out this reaction from a local tech analyst, quoted in the Merc:

Tech industry analyst Rob Enderle, of San Jose's Enderle Group, said he was optimistic about such an ambitious plan coming to fruition.
"I think it's definitely possible," he said. "You can certainly see a future where pretty much every place you go you could have free wireless access."
Enderle pointed out that the United States lags far behind other countries such as South Korea in terms of ubiquity and affordability of high-speed Internet access. The lag likely is more embarrassing in Silicon Valley, given its reputation as a base for advanced technology.
"If we really want Silicon Valley to not turn into the Rust Belt, we need to be competitive."
(my emphasis).

Pittsburgh isn't ready to be a Silicon Valley, and the Silicon Valley is afraid that it's going to turn into Pittsburgh.


1 Response to "Regional Wireless and Rust Belt Recovery"

R. Walsh said... 1/31/2006 8:50 AM

Pittsburgh has better buzz than THIS

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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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