By Ryan Velez
Chances are that you’ve probably heard about the fight for net neutrality. This is a last-ditch effort by people across the country and the world to keep the FCC and lawmakers from handing the regulation of the Internet into the hands of private ISPs, a reality that many fear will be rife with censorship and unethical practices. One common alternative that some have backed is the idea of municipal internet, and Black Enterprise shows the story of a Detroit group trying to wire up their community.
Equitable Internet Initiative is a group of Detroit residents who are learning how to build autonomous, affordable, and high-speed WiFi networks to prevent what they are calling, “the creation of a digital class system,” according to Vice’s recent documentary short, Meet the People Building Their Own Internet in Detroit, from the series Dear Future.
“We risk our human rights if we don’t take ownership and control over the internet in a way that is decentralized,” said Diana Nucera, director of the Detroit Community Technology Project. Nucera, also known as Mother Cyborg, believes her mission is to empower individuals and help them come to the realization of the potential of technology and she is doing that through the Equitable Internet Initiative.
“Detroit is one of the top five least connected cities in the United States,” says Nucera. “So what happens when you have a city that has 1,000 mbps and the people with the least [amount] of resources only have 10? I think that causes a huge problem as far as what you can do with access.” Many people don’t see it in these terms, but Nucera’s words have merit. Many telecom companies refuse to service impoverished areas due to a lack of perceived value. The Equitable Internet Initiative has purchased gigabyte fiber that they’ve connected to routers and pointed them to their community centers, allowing WiFi access, according to the Vice documentary.
“We need to build our own infrastructure and rethink internet service providing and access in order to reach those people who have been traditionally left out and marginalized,” said Nucera. “The work that we’ve been doing is not just about access, it’s about building a healthy digital ecosystem.” With the deck currently stacked against net neutrality’s future, one may see entities like these trying to fill gaps, especially if people aren’t satisfied with their current telecom companies.