In Seattle, it seems, citizens have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of connectivity. The most wired (and wireless) city in the nation, Seattle has 57 Wi-Fi hotspots per 100,000 people; the national average is more like 18. A full 83 percent of Seattle homes have at least one computer, and almost all those homes are online, surpassing the national average by 21 percent.
Seattle’s tech-centeredness has been attributed to the “Microsoft effect,” the software behemoth’s influence on its host city’s economy, culture and lifestyle. Microsoft is the second-largest employer in Seattle (after Boeing), providing work for more than 20,000 people. And since the company’s founding in 1975, it has created at least 8,000 tech-savvy millionaires, most of whom still live in the area. Microsoft chief Bill Gates’s foundation has given nearly $12 million to state tech
charities, including local community-technology centers and programs that
provide computer training for Seattle’s poor and disabled youths.
Seattle resident Matt Westervelt, 33, has worked for Microsoft, twice, but he’s currently an avid blogger who runs his own computer company. Nearly five years ago he created the Seattle Wireless Network, which links apartment buildings, businesses, coffeehouses, schools and parks throughout the city. An all-volunteer effort, the network not only provides free wireless access, it enables people to send e-mail and data files without ever logging on to the Internet. “You can do things like video conferencing between coffee shops at speeds faster than broadband,” says member Joe Towner.
Overall rank: 11
Number of wi-fi hotspots: 319
Percent of homes with internet access: 76
Percent with cable/satellite service: 86
CONNECTED CITIZENRY: RUNNERS-UP
2. Olympia, WA
3. Austin, TX
4. San Francisco, CA
5. Orlando, FL
6. Danbury, CT
7. Honolulu, HI
8. Washington, DC
9. Gainesville, FL
10. Boise, ID
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.