If you want high speed internet in most any spot in New York City, you're stuck with Time Warner Cable. Or at least, that's how it usually works. But increasingly around the city, citizens and small community groups are setting up their own locally owned and operated free wifi networks.
This week on Radio Motherboard, we take a trip to a meetup where two nascent but potentially disruptive groups were discussing how to collaborate in order to provide new connection options to people around the city.
Since 2012, the nonprofit Red Hook Wifi network has been providing totally free internet to people in the small Brooklyn neighborhood. For weeks after Hurricane Sandy struck the neighborhood, the Red Hook Wifi network was the only way many in the community could get on the internet or make phone calls. On any given day, Red Hook Wifi has about 500 users.
Meanwhile, NYC Mesh is little more than a meetup group at the moment, but its organizers have big plans. Its network currently has about 40 "nodes," or routers that connect to each other to form a larger wireless network. Organizer Brian Hall is currently working to set up two "super nodes" that are jacked into a large internet exchange will allow anyone in lower Manhattan and large swaths of Brooklyn to bypass traditional internet service providers and connect directly to the NYC Mesh network.
Finally, a brand new fiber project is about to give the masses a new option, at least when they're out on the streets of New York. Link NYC is a $200 million project to replace 7,500 payphones in the city with a free, gigabit fiber-connected wifi hotspot. We took a trip to Link NYC's headquarters to check out the new "links" and learn about how the project hopes to protect privacy, become a profitable enterprise, and provide connections that people will actually want to use.
As always, thanks for listening! Radio Motherboard is available on iTunes.
Meghan Neal contributed reporting to this podcast.