Silicon Insider: Tech Revolution off the Map

Knowing the town as I do, I could see how it was edited to amplify the rustic side, leaving out the many other changes that have taken place in Bandon in recent years. Thus, the ad featured the local cranberry festival and a lot of shots along the river dock (including my favorite eating joint, the Minute Cafe) and the local skateboard park.

By comparison, except for one shot of the beach, with its famous rock formations (the shot happens to be of my backyard) nothing is shown of the new million-dollar houses, or of the pair of new world-class golf courses that draw wealthy golfers like Michael Jordan to land their private planes at that little municipal airport, or in Coos Bay just up the coast.

But that's OK, because at its heart Bandon is still a small town -- and that makes Hitachi's decision to install America's first 2.5-gigabit citywide cable system there, of all places, something of a miracle.

As it happens, I was one of the Bandonites who signed up for the cable service, and I now have a router and wi-fi setup in both my family's vacation home and our rental property. I was up there a couple months ago, using the system for the first time -- and I did notice the network seemed pretty fast. Actually, looking back, it was very damn fast. In fact, it was faster than my Comcast system here at home. When I get back up to Bandon this weekend, I'm going to give the system a real test-drive.

Bandon Outpaces Silicon Valley

Now, think about what I just said. I live in Sunnyvale, Calif., at the very epicenter of Silicon Valley.

Google, Apple, Cisco, Intel, HP, Yahoo! and Sun are all about equidistant from my house. I live one mile from where the video game was invented, two miles from where the integrated circuit was invented, two blocks from where the inventor of the microprocessor lived, and four blocks from where the Apple Computer was first built.

And yet, my access to the Internet in Silicon Valley is now inferior to that available to the residents of a small fishing village on the southwest Oregon coast -- inhabited by many folks who still don't have digital cell access.

Meanwhile yesterday, a story written by the European VNU Business Network described how the southern African nation of Namibia had just become the first country in the world to power the base stations of its mobile phone network using wind and solar power.

It's likely that all you know about Namibia is that Brad and Angelina chose to have their baby there. But for me, after Silicon Valley and Bandon, Namibia is my other home. My family has spent three of the last six summers there, living on ranches, in the big city, down with the bushmen in the Kalahari and camping in the barren north among the Himba people.

Trust me when I tell you that Namibia, as much as Bandon, is a place where you would least expect to find the cutting edge of technology. A desert country, it is one of the least populated nations in Africa. But it is politically stable and, thanks to tourism, hunting and diamond money flowing down from nearby Angola, it is also, by African standards, a prosperous nation.

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