Going to Amazon
By Dean Takahashi
Posted on Wed, Sep. 20, 2006
If the Internet can reach the middle of the Amazon jungle, then it can probably reach anywhere.
That's why Intel has decided to provide wireless Internet access to the remote Brazilian city of Parintins, which is home to 114,000 people on an island in the Amazon river. Intel Chairman Craig Barrett will christen the service today as an example of how the company can bring the Internet to poorer regions of the world.
In the past couple of months, more than 60 employees from Intel and its partners have set up the first high-speed wireless Internet connection in the city as a showcase for WiMax, the long-range version of WiFi wireless Internet that Intel has championed. The project is part of the Intel World Ahead philanthropic program, which seeks to bring wireless Internet access to less-modern parts of the world over the next five years.
``If we can be successful here, we will replicate this in other isolated communities around the world where electricity and telecommunications are unreliable,'' said Oscar Clarke, general manager for Intel Brazil. ``If Parintins can do it, it can be done anywhere.''
Parintins is certainly isolated. There are no roads to the city. It can only be reached by a 12-hour boat ride from Manaus, the nearest large city, or by airplane. Two hydroelectric plants supply electricity, but to only parts of the island.
The city needs Internet access in part for medical reasons, because it has only 32 doctors and one hospital, Clarke said.
WiMax is particularly well suited in this case because one WiMax radio tower can cover 30 miles or so, giving coverage to the entire city. The 300-foot WiMax tower is connected via a satellite link to the rest of the Internet.
Intel is donating a total of 65 computers to the hospital, a community center, and two local schools. Of the 190 schools in the city, only one has Internet access right now.
The city started as a native Indian village and is now famous for its Parintins Folklore Festival, which draws crowds from around the country. Barrett will fly into the city and visit four locations, each of which has a WiFi wireless Internet network that links into the WiMax network. Clarke said Intel was able to set up the network in just six weeks.
Other companies that assisted with the project include Cisco Systems, Proxim Wireless, Brazilian long-distance provider Embratel, Brazilian telecommunications firm CPdQ, Brazilian educational non-profit Bradesco Foundation, and the Amazonas State University.
Contact Dean Takahashi at dtakahashi@ mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5739.