Grassroots WiFi Network Provides Internet Access To Remote Brooklyn Neighborhood

Brooklynites’ wireless mesh network will provide internet access to Red Hook locals in case of natural disasters.

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.

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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.

Technical.ly // The Digital Stewards

Images by The Digital Stewards.

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