[A2k] Community router? Good story by Jamilah King

Manon Ress manon.ress at keionline.org
Thu Oct 11 15:29:14 PDT 2012

Not sure what USPTO has in mind over there but the story is
interesting especially for consumers in some underserved areas.


A Tech Innovation in Detroit: Connect People, Not Computers
by Jamilah King

At first glance, Dolores Leonard’s house looks like all the others on
her block in Southwestern Detroit. It’s a modest, one-story brick
structure that sits behind a carefully manicured lawn, a place that
Leonard and her husband have called home for over 50 years. What
stands out is what’s on the chimney: a slim, silver pole that’s shaped
almost like a spear. It stands at about 3-feet tall, sticks directly
up into the air and, if all goes according to plan, will become an
instrumental part of one community’s effort to build its own
people-powered wireless Internet.

The device is a router, and it’s not too different than the one you’re
likely using to read this story online. Once it’s up and running, the
idea is that the router atop Leonard’s roof will work as a hub in
what’s called a “mesh network,” to open up Internet access throughout
Leonard’s working class black neighborhood.

Leonard isn’t your typical tech guru. Well into her 70s, she’s a
retired adult education teacher who spends her days absorbed in her
community’s issues. But the router on her roof is one sign of how
important she is to the city’s emerging technological infrastructure.
It’s part of an effort to build a community-owned wireless network in
a neighborhood known by its zip code, 48217, one of the Detroit’s most
economically impoverished areas.

The goal isn’t only to give residents a low-cost Internet
option—although that’s an enticing selling point for many. It’s to
give residents who are often overlooked and underserved an easy tool
for gathering and spreading the information that’s important to them.
“It’s important that you not be left out of the loop,” Leonard sums

Detroit, which is famously associated with the collapse of U.S.
manufacturing, may seem like an unlikely home for a tech revolution.
But it’s happening, thanks in large part to millions of dollars in
federal stimulus money that’s helping make the city a hub for
innovation. Both corporations and community-driven efforts are angling
for space in the quickly evolving landscape.

Last April social media giant Twitter opened up offices in the city’s
downtown, with one official from the San Francisco-based company
telling the Huffington Post that “Detroit’s emerging mix of automotive
and digital cultures made it a natural location for Twitter’s newest
offices.” The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office also opened up a new
space in the city, creating an important regional pathway for would-be
entrepreneurs. And Black Enterprise described the flurry of activity
as a “digital renaissance.”

As the city charts its future through in this new tech economy,
communities are also finding ways to incorporate technology into their
old school political organizing, through efforts like the router atop
Leonard’s home. The mesh network development in 48217 offers a useful
case study of the powerful reach that organizing around the Internet
can have—both on and offline.

What’s a Mesh Network? SNIP
More here:

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