Recently a young person told me that, compared to the college students of the '60's and '70's, today's students feel less powerful. They don't have the clout that young people did 30, 40 years ago.

Let me be blunt: Today's students are the most powerful generation in the history of the world.

Consider WikiPedia. Our organization worked with them a few of years ago. At the time, they were the #19 website in the world. In the whole world-- and that includes massively funded corporate websites such as Amazon, CNN, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and AOL, to name a few.

And yet at that time, Wikipedia had only two and a half people working in their office. Even more impressive: since then, they have gone through 3 or 4 CEOs, they battle constant internal, managerial, financial and organizational problems... and after all those problems?

Now they are the #7 website in the world.

Look at Napster, Youtube, Blogger, del.icio.us, Photobucket, eBay, Myspace, Linux & OpenSource, etc, etc, etc. Using freely available software, and new technologies-- eMail, ListServes, message boards, social networking, social bookmarking, blogs, eZines, podcasts, live audio/video streaming, IM, RSS, cell phones, cell phone cameras, cell phone video cameras-- the public, mostly students, have created trillions of dollars in profit for individuals and corporations.

Alexander, Caesar, the Bourbon Kings, the Czars of Russia-- none of them had the power at their fingertips that students have at this very instant. So just imagine what students could do if they decided to create other mass movements: social, political, economic, educational? And if it is possible to create such movements, is there any reason that Louisiana students couldn't become leaders and innovators in the field?

It is said that you can't fight City Hall. That's simply untrue. It is actually quite easy to fight City Hall, if you know what steps to take. It's the media you can't fight. The media controls the message, so they are unbeatable...

...unless you are also media. Then you can take them on.

And today, students are the media. Because of it, the whole concept of medium/media has changed radically. Previously, when we said "media" we actually meant both the medium, and the content. But look at all those Internet/telecommunications movements noted above. More and more, the corporations control only the medium itself.  The content is created by the public... which for the most part means it is created by students.

So students don't need the corporations any more. There are free, freely available media that replace all of the corporate platforms. You can pay for blog software or you can download free, OpenSource platforms.

In fact, there is free, OpenSource software that will replace almost any commercial software on the market. And if the few dollars a month to host your own blog or other software is too much, you can use Blogger (or you can use ultoday.com, we're looking for bloggers), or any number of other platforms that will provide you the tools you need to publish your own content, free of charge.

The take-home point is, today the media is only the medium... it's less and less the content. More and more, the most influential websites are the ones with content that is user-generated. And most of those generating users are teenagers and young adults.

That's how much power students have.

And here at UL, our students have perhaps more power than students anywhere in the world, for one reason: 100 megabits per second.

The Lafayette Utilities System's 'Fiber To The Home' initiative will create, here in little ol' Lafayette, the fastest community intranet in the world. Peer-to-peer transmission rates on LUS will be 100 Mb/sec.

Let me put that in perspective for those of you who don't do a lot of technology. For our websites, booksXYZ.com, CajunFun.com, ultoday.com, and our first free on-line scholastic newspaper* TheVerm.com, the AEE buys big, commercial pipes for Internet delivery.

And all we get is 4 Mb/sec. But that bandwidth will handle our growth for quite a while to come.

So what can be done with 100 Mb/sec??? No one knows. But if students at UL were to work with other colleges in the state to create an OpenMedia Activists group, then use the LUS intranet to build it out, and use those to work with concerned citizens in Louisiana and beyond, then we could improve higher education, improve all education...

...and the world would be better because of it.

*The AEE has created a program to provide free on-line newspapers to colleges, and eventually high schools and others.  We have begun contacting some of the other universities in Louisiana.  If your school would be interested in participating in this, contact us and we will be happy to work with you.