Being Digital: Vacationing Internet Guru Connects Greek Island

Nicolas Negroponte owns a summer home in Patmos and is setting up a high-speed mesh network to bring Wi-Fi to most of the island

Tourists and locals on the Greek Island of Patmos will soon be able to enjoy island-wide wi-fi web access courtesy of $100 laptop founder Nicholas Negroponte's passion for the web.

The island is the place where St John wrote the New Testament's Book of Revelation—and is sometimes called the 'Jerusalem of the Aegean'. But today it plays host to Negroponte who owns a holiday home on it and has long had an interest in bringing internet access to the island, setting up local dial-up internet service provider 12Net in the 1990s.

Negroponte's MIT Media Lab then went on to look at ways of bringing broadband web access to Patmos and eventually settled on wireless mesh networking tech as the best solution.

The wireless Patmos network—due to launch this summer—has been jointly developed by MIT Media Lab and Nortel Solutions Interoperability Laboratory in North Carolina. It utilises Nortel mesh technology, with an initial infrastructure that includes eight core nodes and 50 access nodes, to bring wi-fi to the major parts of the island and also indoors.

12Net is implementing the mesh network with Uni Nortel—a joint venture in Greece between Nortel and IT company Unisystems—which is responsible for the commissioning, design and installation of the network.

As well as enabling tourists to catch two types of surf on the beach, the network will enable high school teachers and students on Patmos and its surrounding islands to access online education resources, the companies said.

Writing on a 12Net portal website, Negroponte makes it clear mesh systems—powered by the many not the few—are his vision for a wired world: "Large wired and wireless telephone companies will be replaced by micro-operators, millions of which can be woven into a global fabric of broadband connectivity."

Mesh networking is an integral part of Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child project, with each $100 laptop acting as a wireless node to form a mobile ad hoc network (or Manet).

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