A young group of Brooklynites has been charged with an unusual mission: build a neighborhood-wide wi-fi network.
The idea is that a community wireless network in Red Hook, Brooklyn, can help bridge the digital divide in a neighborhood where internet is primarily accessed via smartphone and provide a communications lifeline in case of natural disaster, such as last year’s Hurricane Sandy. Red Hook is at a particular disadvantage when it comes to hurricanes, being in close proximity to the water.
The wi-fi crew is all between the ages of 18 to 25. They call themselves The Digital Stewards, and are trained and funded as part of The Red Hook Initiative, a nonprofit organization providing education and volunteer opportunities for area youths, in partnership with Brooklyn Fiber and the Open Technology Institute.
Block by block, the group is identifying installation sites for their routers and antennas, and convincing their neighbors to be a part of the network. ‘Mesh’ networks are composed of nodes that transmit signals to one another and have the advantage of being truly wireless — not relying on existing infrastructure — but they can only become faster and stronger with additional nodes added to the network.
By the end of 2013, The Digital Stewards aim to provide wireless coverage to 80% of public spaces in their neighborhood. Further assistance and technical support will be provided by The Red Hook Initiative and Open Technology Institute field analysts.
Images by The Digital Stewards.