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Why Community Wifi in NYC

04/22/06 | by steveg [mail] | Categories: WiFi, Community, Social Networks

Dana Speigel, the Founder and Exec Dir of NYCWireless posted about a balanced article in the New York Press about the nationwide phenomenae of comunnity wireless networks. (See what happens if you have more than one newspaper in town!)

Just replace NYCwireless with TWifi and we get the local opinion as well.

Organizations like NYCwireless can afford to give away their creations—often enhanced versions of other groups’ work across the country—because they’ve entirely bypassed the hefty research and development investment costs of the major telecommunications companies. “It’s not this black box, über-technology that requires zillions of dollars to do,” said Sascha Meinrath, project director of the Champaign-Urbana [Illinois] Community Wireless Network, whose software was developed by part-time volunteers sitting around drinking coffee and testing ideas.

Yup that's a quote from Sascha who in Urbana. Good research by the post.

Spiegel said communal networks brought people together. Discussing the recent New York Times feature, “Hey neighbor, stop piggy-backing on my wireless,” Spiegel said, “That’s completely wrong. It should be, ‘Hey neighbor, it’s great to finally meet you.’”

I am fond of saying that TWifi isn't as much about connecting to the internet as to connecting the community.

Groups like NYCwireless see wireless broadband as bridging socio-economic divides as well as bringing smaller communities together. While Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum has openly dismissed Internet access as a priority for low-income communities, NYCwireless secretary Laura Forlano describes a home broadband connection as helping users to find jobs and retail bargains. “Everyone knows public libraries are crowded and can only offer limited time online,” she said. “If you’re a single mother, you may only be able to go online at midnight.”

This is like one of my favorite stories about a kid kicked out of the closing library on Jefferson and crying cuz he doen't have his homework done yet, while his "friend" is teasing him because his daddy has DSL and a computer at home and can get the work finished. Unequal education (via grades cuz that's all that is looked at here) based purely on economic factors.

Dana corrects the article:One of the corrections that needs to be made about the cost of building a wireless apartment building is that it should cost around $5,000 to light up the entire building, not just a single apartment. This price is based on a few assumptions about the size and construction of a building, but is well in line with some of the projects on which we’ve worked.

Since Dana is talking about apartments in "Da City" that are 6-16 stories tall, I'd guestimate the Cleveland price is much lower and of course we have the much vaunted low cost of living.

Dana, Laura, and of course Sascha are only three of the people I met, hung out with, and shared wifi stories with at the Summit.

You should be impressed. I am.


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