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Monday, June 3, 2013
Blacksburg locals have banded together to try to bring unprecedented Internet speeds and free Wi-Fi to the downtown area, but the project may soon time out if it doesn't find some last-minute generosity.
TechPad, which offers shared workspace to young technology businesses, must reach its $85,000 fundraising goal by Wednesday night. If not, downtown visitors checking email in coffee shops or studying on outdoor benches will continue to be without the kind of free public Wi-Fi Roanoke has enjoyed for the past 10 years. As of Monday, the ticker showed $76,760 donated by 78 people.
"I'm optimistic," TechPad founder Bob Summers said. "We need to see a little bit of an uptick in the individual donations. If they come in at the $50 to $100 mark, we still have quite a few to make. But I'm optimistic. I have to be."
Modea, a digital advertising firm, gave what Summers called a substantial contribution to get things going. But otherwise, he said he has been surprised at the lack of interest from corporate donors.
"I was really unsure of how crowd funding would happen," he said. "But I saw an opportunity. This is something that can benefit the public, and if they want it, then help us get it done."
If the effort doesn't hit the $85,000 goal, all funds raised so far will go back to the donors and public Wi-Fi will once again be on the city's wish list.
But wireless Internet is really just a part of TechPad's bigger goal: to bring unprecedented Internet speeds to its downtown offices.
With $85,000, the business incubator will be able to tap into an already existing fiber optic cable network about 300 feet from its offices. The new cables will make a 1-gigabyte Internet connection possible .
Once TechPad has this next-generation Internet connection, Summers said it will share access with the community that made it happen.
While the public won't get the full gigabyte connection speed, Summers said it will be faster than what most are used to.
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