Americans Got Sick of Waiting for Comcast, So They’re Building Their Own Internet

(ANTIMEDIA)  Due to economic factors, much of Detroit has gone ignored by major telecommunications companies, leaving 40% of the city without any access to internet. As much as 70% of school-aged children do not have internet access at home and are desperately in need of this basic utility, according to the FCC. However, the citizens of Detroit have taken matters into their own hands, and with the help of a coalition of organizations, they have started working together to build their own internet.

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The effort began over the summer when the Equitable Internet Initiative, a grassroots movement made up of community members and local non-profits, started training local residents from three neighborhoods to become “digital stewards.” Many of these stewards started out with little to no technical knowledge. Now experts after a 20-week-long training period, these digital stewards are able to install routers, pull fiber, maintain an entire network from end to end, troubleshoot, and even teach others how to do the same.

“We want to make sure that we’re not just installing all the equipment, but also educating the community,” said Rita Ramirez, one of the stewards working on the project in Detroit’s Southwest neighborhood, told MotherboardThe trained volunteers will use wireless access points to beam the wifi connection to homes from one of three main wifi hubs: Grace in Action in Southwest Detroit, WNUC 96.7 community radio station in the North End, and Church of the Messiah in Islandview. Each will service approximately 50 homes. The routers will also have a feature allowing all computers on the network access to secure communication via an internal intranet in the event that the internet goes down.

The Equitable Internet Initiative was made possible with the help of Detroit-based cutting-edge internet service provider Rocket Fiberand according to Model D Media, it was “largely financed by the New Economy Initiative (NEI), a business development organization with foundation support. The project was designed and implemented by the Detroit Community Technology Project, a sponsored project of Allied Media Projects (AMP).”

Because the funding will eventually run out, the volunteer digital stewards will have to work together with anchor organizations to develop business models that will ensure the long-term sustainability of the internet connections, according to Diane Nucera, director of the Detroit Community Technology Project. “These folks will be the ones organizing, building the infrastructure, and teaching others, hopefully to create a culture of collective ownership,” Nucera said.

Digital steward Monique Tate agrees, pointing out that residents are more likely to stay involved if they have a sense of ownership. “Your parents may have given you your first bicycle, but when you buy your own, you had much more appreciation and respect for it,” Tate says. “We need to make people feel like it’s theirs, then they’ll be compelled to want to take care of it.”

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  • Joyce Gaynor

    Comcast is not a charity, and runs cable, not wireless (mostly) to homes. Comcast requires population density to justify building infrastructure.

    Detroit has lost most of it’s population, there are videos on youtube in quantity showing people golfing from southern Detroit through to the Canadian border. Other videos show tumbleweed, Bears, and other wildlife returning to Detroit. It is unlikely most of Detroit could be profitable to build infrastructure for high speed Internet regardless of ISP. WISP or local city based LTE may be a good idea.

    Detroit wasted tons of money giving away a downtown building to a private but connected developer then leasing space for it’s board of education at a cost higher than the purchase price of the building by the developer. This no lose situation for a connected developer is common in Detroit. If some people are stringing some wireless access, great. It doesn’t seem to me that one becomes an expert in WISP networking or any other networking with a 90 or 120 day course. After 4 years and a degree in computer science plus 10 years working in the field, maybe. A short class, probably not. Good luck Detroit.

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    • evoldog

      Joyce, while you’re correct about Comcast not being a charity and it needing to make business sense, if you’ve ever had to deal with the “Comcastholes”, you’d understand the irresistible urge to kick them whenever possible, fair or unfair, because the way they’ve treated their customers, and as a standard way of doing business, is deplorable.
      As far as those attempting it being better off having a proper education and experience level; no doubt about it, that would be real nice, I’m sure they would all agree, but since that is not an option, I think it’s FUCKING GREAT the citizens, with the aid of apparently a handful of organizations backing the money, are attempting it on their own.
      It’s not like they have any other choice.
      And MY money says they will find a way to make it work – you know – the way us Americans USED to ALWAYS do!!
      Sooooo, while your assessment is accurate, I think it is deplorable for you to take the time to point out the inaccuracies and shortcomings without also applauding the EFFORT and INGENUITY.
      Saaaaayyyyyyy….YOU”RE not a Comcasthole, are you? 🙂 🙂 🙂

      • Joyce Gaynor

        All cable, in fact most utilities in the U.S. are a variant of monopoly (sometimes duopoly). Landline or cable is the most choice many will get in the U.S. at this time for anything resembling high speed Internet. Our government (federal, state and local) enforce this. It is impossible for new companies to access utility easements to hang their own fiber or wire.

        Has Detroit eliminated city or county limits on cable / landline competition? Where is google?