Want Free Wi-Fi in Your Neighborhood? Wi-Detroit is On Its Way.By Amanda Lewan on August 6th, 2013 /
In Detroit, we talk about resolving the food desert, but what about the internet desert?
In a city where economic issues such as poverty and illiteracy rates are high, could better and free access to Wi-Fi provide easier access to tools all Detroiters need to succeed?
A few months ago Mobilize.org came to the city for their Millenials in Detroit conference, and a group of students and young professionals met to brainstorm an idea to help bridge what’s known as the digital divide in America.
“We realized many were coming up with ideas that had to do with social media and internet connectivity, and we realized that the internet cannot help to solve societal problems if you don’t have access in the first place,” said Laura Katnelson, Wi-Detroit Team Member. “That’s why we came up with Wi-Detroit, to do what we could to help make city-wide wireless broadband a reality for Detroiters.”
The group assembled a street team with the goal of connecting existing free wireless initiatives to the communities that need them. The team of five is using mesh networks to tackle the problem, focusing on one community at a time to connect the city.
“It will work somewhat like a mosaic. Neighborhoods are be focused on one at a time until the entire puzzle is filled, creating one giant network,” said Laura.
The team has also partnered with HDL.com and Wireless Ypsi, a similar initiative to Wi-Detroit. Currently, the team is planning to start with the Brightmoor and HOPE Village neighborhoods of Detroit. They chose these communities to start with because of the already existing community strength. Next, they aim to expand to 2-3 more communities.
How important can tackling a Wi-Fi desert in Detroit be? Laura believes that internet access is considered a utility, one that can help lead to social progress in Detroit
“In the 21st century it’s nearly as vital to everyday survival as water and electricity,” said Laura, pointing out that everything from email, job applications, and bills are online. “The internet is a big equalizer in the sense that it gives all users the same amount of resources to educate themselves and engage with the world around them.”
With Detroit currently facing Bankruptcy, internet access be a basic tool in boosting access to jobs, resources, and other important information in the city.
“Internet is the low-hanging fruit in the revitalization effort for Detroit, and free wireless access could be the springboard for the many necessary things that need to happen in Detroit.”
Stay tuned for this ambitious group to help get Detroiters everywhere access to internet. The group will be raising money through UniSprout. We’d love to see them succeed here in Detroit and other cities in Michigan.