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The Internet Communications Network

Detroit's Marginalized Communities Are Building Their Own Internet (vice.com) 125

An anonymous reader writes: Motherboard has a report that discusses how some of Detroit's communities are building their own internet to help close the gap between the roughly 60 percent of Detroiters who have internet and 40 percent who don't. From the report: "[Diana Nucera, director of the Detroit Community Technology Project] is part of a growing cohort of Detroiters who have started a grassroots movement to close that gap, by building the internet themselves. It's a coalition of community members and multiple Detroit nonprofits. They're starting with three underserved neighborhoods, installing high speed internet that beams shared gigabit connections from an antenna on top of the tallest building on the street, and into the homes of people who have long gone without. They call it the Equitable Internet Initiative. The issue isn't only cost, though it is prohibitive for many Detroiters, but also infrastructure. Because of Detroit's economic woes, many Big Telecom companies haven't thought it worthwhile to invest in expanding their network to these communities. The city is filled with dark fiber optic cable that's not connected to any homes or businesses -- relics from more optimistic days.

Residents who can't afford internet, are on some kind of federal or city subsidy like food stamps, and students are prioritized for the Initiative, Nucera told me. The whole effort started last summer with enlisting digital stewards, locals from each neighborhood who were interested in working for the nonprofit coalition, doing everything from spreading the word, to teaching digital literacy, to installing routers and pulling fiber. Many of these stewards started out with little or no tech expertise, but after a 20-week-long training period, they've become experts able to install, troubleshoot, and maintain a network from end to end. They're also aiming to spread digital literacy, so people can truly own the network themselves."

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Detroit's Marginalized Communities Are Building Their Own Internet

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  • No they're not (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 16, 2017 @10:36PM (#55567573)

    They're building access to the Internet. That's totally different.

    • > They're building access to the Internet.

      If Detroit builds access to the internet as well as it built machines to access roads, then they are in trouble.
      • Given that Detroit essentially enabled the economic success of America's best years following WWII, your statement is questionable at best. However, I will admit, if you limit that statement to the 1970s and 1980s, you are utterly correct.
  • In fact, forget the internet!

    • Well there was some talk about allowing internet gambling again... And being Detroit it should be pretty easy to find work violent thugs to handle 'collections'
  • Well the state is going to shut that down fast. Cant have govt providing services.
  • I live near Detroit (Score:5, Informative)

    by Puls4r ( 724907 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @10:46PM (#55567613)
    And I don't have broadband. 1 mile from Comcast, but they $5k to extend. Frontier won't serve me DSL, because I'm too far from whatever. Satellite? Yeah right. I CAN pay $70 a month for 1.5 Mb MAX, which I signed up for and usually got like 250k. So now I use a verizon hotspot that maxes out after 4 days (15Gb) then drops to .6k..... which is better than nothing. And there isn't a damn thing I can do, but if you listen to the government I'm 'Served'. LOL.
    • That really sucks, man. What a pain. I'm guessing that means there's not a run of utility poles for that mile between you and where the cable company has service? If they have to deal with land easements or digging, $5,000 is about right, possibly a bit low depending on the details.

      I'm curious how long you've lived there. For the last 15 years, internet service has been something I looked at carefully before choosing a place to live. The last time I moved, I made sure I was in an area where cable compet

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I am literally in the same situation 2/10 of a mile away from houses with cable. They will not budge. Unless a new neighborhood that destroys every sign of life and stacks houses on top of each other is built, I will likely just be screwed. I block ads, do QOS, and stay away from "smart anything" that uses bandwidth.

    • by mishehu ( 712452 )
      Hell, $5000 is chump change. I'm about that distance from the nearest fiber run, and the *best* quote I can get for 10 mbps fiber (symmetric) from Windstream is $700+ per month with a 3 year contract. That's no $5000 build-out charge. I'd pay $5000 in a heartbeat to get the connectivity if that's all it took for me.
      • How far away are your neighbors? Could you put up a tower to have mostly clear line of sight and divvy that up to 10 $70/month gigabit connections?

        • by mishehu ( 712452 )

          The thought has cross my mind. There are numerous issues though. The terrain here is hilly-borderline-mountainous. I'd be looking at having to put anywhere from a 50 foot to a 120 foot tower to get good coverage on enough neighbors to make it functional, which means that I'd be looking at a rather large capital expenditure to do so. The $700/mo figure is for 10mbps, and 20mbps was around $900/mo - what, I'm going to divvy that up to 1mbps per customer when the guy who can't run his existing ubnt is prom

          • Sorry completely miss read that as 10Gb for some reason. Definitely not worth it for 10Mb.

            I hope your situation improves sometime.

            • by mishehu ( 712452 )
              Me too. You have no idea how tedious it is to train a parrot to repeat back a packet. (It's a little modification to rfc2549 that I'm working on. This one includes redundancy in case the avian carrier drops the packet itself...)
    •     15Gb in 4 days? You shouldn't watch so much video from your home connection. Does AT&T have service there?
      "GoPhone customer. Starting today, AT&T GoPhone customers can get unlimited data for only $60 a month after they sign up for AutoPay"
      I tether off my go-phone wifi hotspot no problem. http://about.att.com/story/att... [att.com]

    • And there isn't a damn thing I can do, but if you listen to the government I'm 'Served'.

      Yes, you are. You have enough bandwidth for access to information. I don't want my government worrying if you can stream 4k movies. If you want more, pay for it.

  • Guess which political party has run Detroit since January 2, 1962?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Such fun.

      Guess which letter Detroit has started with since July 24th, 1701?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      When the Dims have destroyed an area, they move to another one where proper humans live and bring their political diseases and pollution with them to destroy that one too.

    • by CaptainDork ( 3678879 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @11:26PM (#55567721)

      The key decision-makers – major shareholders in General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, etc, and the boards of directors they selected – made many disastrous decisions.

      They failed in competition with European and Japanese automobile capitalists and so lost market share to them.

      They responded too slowly and inadequately to the need to develop new fuel-saving technologies.

      And, perhaps most tellingly, they responded to their own failures by deciding to move production out of Detroit so they could pay other workers lower wages.

      Detroit [theguardian.com] wasn't about politics. It was about capitalism, and it's all around us today.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        Boy are you in for a surprise when you find out about Coleman Young, his 20 years as mayor, and what he did to the middle class. He created the Detroit of today.
        • by CaptainDork ( 3678879 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @11:57PM (#55567791)

          My tripwires will not let me go to that site, but seriously? 20 years?

          You think Detroit was destroyed in the last 20 years [nytimes.com]?

          First, there was decentralization. Strikes, inspired by union negotiations and a refusal by blacks and whites to work side by side, were halting progress, according to "Detroit, Race and Uneven Development," co-written by Joe T. Darden. Factories were built in the suburbs and in neighboring states so that if there was a protest in one factory, work could still continue elsewhere. But as the factories spread out, so too did the job opportunities.

          When the industry then experimented with automation, replacing assembly-line jobs with machinery, tens of thousands of jobs were lost. The industry shrank even more during the energy crisis in the 1970s and the economic recession in the 1980s. And foreign competition caused profits to plummet.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Coleman Young left office in 1994. He was a "Black Power" far left radical. He drove business from Detroit and told them good riddance. You don't know history, I see.
            • I don't need to know history.

              I need to Google it. Plus, I lived it.

              Coleman Young, his 20 years as mayor, and what he did to the middle class. He created the Detroit of today.

              1994 - 20 = 1974.

              You're so full of shit, you didn't bother Googling.

              I'm tired of you, and you are dismissed.

              • Uh...huh? Coleman Young ruined Detroit during his term from 1974-1994. The shithole it is today is due to his policies. By the way, stop "Googling", Google clearly turned evil. Moreover if you're going to verb it, it doesn't take a capital letter.
      • Reducing the relative failure of "Detroit" to the failure of an economic system is a bit reductio ad absurdum. There were multiple economic, sociological, and political factors involved.

        The article's remedy - worker's co-ops - are resolutely opposed by the UAW. The UAW thrives on an adversarial relationship with the companies it bargains with. VW tried setting up worker's co-ops in it's factories in the US and the UAW campaigned against them.

    • by Jim Sadler ( 3430529 ) on Friday November 17, 2017 @12:36AM (#55567869)
      When American auto companies were strong and becoming huge we had a very conservative government. Then a slight breeze came up and our auto companies learned that Europe and japan could really produce good cars and that put Detroit into decline. It took democrats to try to hold a messed up city together. The real problem was allowing such a concentration of industry in the first place. Brooklyn N.Y. is the same. New York played every game in the world to attract labor to a vibrant N.Y.. Then change came along and all those employees were in big trouble. Jobs were eliminated and paid less due to inflation and state taxes raised to try to keep the city and state alive. If the great expansion had been limited the great crashes and suffering would not have befell Brooklyn and NYC.. Look at the troubles that plague California. California has boomed for many decades. Now the underlying problems surface and suffering and chaos abound. When you hear the political folks screaming about getting more growth stop and think that growth may be your worst enemy.
      • Detroit was in decline way before Japanese cars starting being good. A huge impact to the decline was the 1967 race riots which drove anyone who could afford it out of the city to the suburbs of Dearborn and Livonia.

        This caused a major revenue crunch as the tax base evaporated. Coleman Young then became mayor in 1974 and stayed in power for 20 years. This brought about mass corruption that is still being cleaned up 20 years later.

        • You fail to consider that when race riots break out it is usually because race riots need to break out. When a system crushes people there are rebellions. Obviously people of color in Detroit were not being well treated. European cars were making a splash in 1967 before the Japanese cars had a meaningful market share. Volkswagon in particular was selling the beetles in ever increasing numbers. Smaller models were replacing the large cars as gasoline was beginning to be a non trivial expense.
    • It's amazing to watch US political debates. It's like a flock of sheep bickering over which wolf is better as a shepherd because at least he eats fewer of them instead of realizing that killing both is what is actually in their interest.

  • If cable companies will not serve portions of an area why allow them to be in the area to begin with? You can also believe that this self help group will, one way or another, feel the weight of a political system that is inherently corrupt.
    • If cable companies will not serve portions of an area why allow them to be in the area to begin with?

      Because it's them or nothing? Ask Google how easy it is to come in and make a profit selling broadband.

      • Making a profit is not normally easy in any enterprise. What we needed from day one was a fist full of cables to every home that are owned by competing companies. And we still have Comcast with an abomination of customer service as our only cable option. It is so weird. The cable companies are losing their customers and yet they still offer really rotten customer service. It is as if they don't even try to compete at all.
  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Friday November 17, 2017 @12:47AM (#55567889)
    from descending on this little town and crushing this? Just wondering. There's been podunk towns in the middle of nowhere who suggested doing muni-broadband and were shut down by a gaggle of lawyers chanting some nonsense about free enterprise and it not being fair they have to compete with government.

    Speaking of which, anyone else find it funny that the same folks who tell you gov't can't do anything right also tell you gov't can't be allowed to compete with private business because it would be unfair? What are they afraid of, the gov't's just gonna fail anyway, right?
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      You shouldn't be logical around right wing people. They tend to get aggressive and rude.

    • Oh PLEASE take a video of a lawyer telling a gang member that he can't have his free porn because ... if he gets past because, he found a gang member that was so high that he missed his first few shots.

    • Speaking of which, anyone else find it funny that the same folks who tell you gov't can't do anything right also tell you gov't can't be allowed to compete with private business because it would be unfair?

      The thing about most people is that they're never completely firm in their views. Prod them on the right subjects and they turn into hypocrites. You can also see this in people who sit on the political left who have no doubts as to minorities being just as smart and capable as whites, but will still call for and defend policies that assume that minorities aren't as smart or capable as whites.

      • You can also see this in people who sit on the political left who have no doubts as to minorities being just as smart and capable as whites, but will still call for and defend policies that assume that minorities aren't as smart or capable as whites.

        Actually, no. Let's agree that blacks are as inherently smart and capable as whites, at least for the sake of discussion. The differences, then, are because of social factors.

        Typically, blacks get worse education. They get worse treatment from the justice

    • from descending on this little town and crushing this? Just wondering. There's been podunk towns in the middle of nowhere who suggested doing muni-broadband and were shut down by a gaggle of lawyers chanting some nonsense about free enterprise and it not being fair they have to compete with government. Speaking of which, anyone else find it funny that the same folks who tell you gov't can't do anything right also tell you gov't can't be allowed to compete with private business because it would be unfair? What are they afraid of, the gov't's just gonna fail anyway, right?

      For one, this is not a government effort so fighting it might actually be more costly because the citizens are fully invested in it and a few lawyers might actually defend the project pro-bono because it is a good cause to serve. It's very hard to fight a group of people united in a single purpose. Plus, the big ISPs probably do their profit/loss calculations and see that there is only money to lose. I am sure that they will be keeping an eye on the project with some concern that this citizen initiative mig

    • Speaking of which, anyone else find it funny that the same folks who tell you gov't can't do anything right also tell you gov't can't be allowed to compete with private business because it would be unfair?

      These statement are not in any way contradictory. Government is allowed to do thing (like collect taxes and impose regulations) which private businesses are not allowed to do. Things which no one should be allowed to do. That is what makes the "competition" unfair. Not that they can out-compete private businesses by doing things right, but that they have a license to cheat.

      What are they afraid of, the gov't's just gonna fail anyway, right?

      They're more afraid that the project will not be allowed to fail—that it will waste the community's resources and drive more effic

      • by thule ( 9041 )

        I am personally in favor of community-driven Internet service projects, but they should be organized as subscriber-owned co-ops with no special privileges or legal favor, not branches of the municipal government.

        Exactly. I don't understand why people can't see the difference. The reason we have such little competition at the local level is *because* local government limited it. There might be good reasons for it, but local government need to make it easier for companies to run wire. Look at the Google Fiber example, such bureaucracy with local government, and they gave up.

        The other big difference is with a co-ops, people actually have work together on the project. Government? "Just give it to me!"

        • The reason we have such little competition at the local level is *because* local government limited it.

          That's part of it. In some cases.

          It's also because there are industries that have an enormous barrier to entry (like broadband). Investors aren't interested in spending years and billions to setup shop only to get into a price war with an established competitor.

    • Speaking of which, anyone else find it funny that the same folks who tell you gov't can't do anything right also tell you gov't can't be allowed to compete with private business because it would be unfair? What are they afraid of, the gov't's just gonna fail anyway, right?

      Governments can sell items below cost and make up the difference in taxes. Government has little incentive to control costs since ultimately they can tax. Government can mandate that you purchase only from them. Lots of other issues too.

      You even ponder this? - Why Communism Failed [fee.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 17, 2017 @12:48AM (#55567893)

    The whole effort started last summer with enlisting digital stewards, locals from each neighborhood who were interested in working for the nonprofit coalition, doing everything from spreading the word, to teaching digital literacy, to installing routers and pulling fiber. Many of these stewards started out with little or no tech expertise, but after a 20-week-long training period, they've become experts able to install, troubleshoot, and maintain a network from end to end.

    Fucking impossible. Everybody knows tech skills can't be taught. Tech bros are born, not trained. You have to be young, bro. Youth is skill. Old people can't do shit, ever.

    • There's plenty of young people with plenty of time in the area. And, let's face it, the skills to set up some internet connection isn't so different from the skills to hotwire a car, cables are cables.

    • The whole effort started last summer with enlisting digital stewards, locals from each neighborhood who were interested in working for the nonprofit coalition, doing everything from spreading the word, to teaching digital literacy, to installing routers and pulling fiber. Many of these stewards started out with little or no tech expertise, but after a 20-week-long training period, they've become experts able to install, troubleshoot, and maintain a network from end to end.

      Fucking impossible. Everybody knows tech skills can't be taught. Tech bros are born, not trained. You have to be young, bro. Youth is skill. Old people can't do shit, ever.

      Sounds like someone has some bias against older people. When people want to learn something and they set their minds to learn it, they will. Youth might represent skill but time and time again, represents a lack of work ethic. The older people have work developed work ethics from years of experience in the workplace. A blend of youth and older is far better. I taught myself tech skills and continue to do so. I am 40 but I am still sharp as a tack and can run rings around the people that just graduate with I

  • It sounds almost unrealistic. When I firstly read it, I assumed that it was because most of people there didn't want/need to connect to internet (weird for a person like me spending lots of time online, although kind of understandable). But really not being able to afford an internet connection! 40% of the population of a big city! In the USA! How can this be possible?
  • This is an example of what people can achieve when they come together for a common good, without politics involved. If I lived in Detroit, I would love to be a part of this. It just goes to show that you need neither Corporate America nor politics to get anything done. Arguably, it happens faster when neither of them get involved in the first place. There's less lip service to progress and MUCH more actual progress achieved.
  • This is how Cable Television got its start (http://www.sectv.com/web/aspfounder.aspx?strSystem=LV). The problem space seems the same, but motivations and forces are different.

  • SUBTLE ORIGIN of "Order it to disarm the missiles disorder":

    In the final moments of the movie War Games, the protagonist is engaged in a methodical side-channel attack [youtube.com]. He successfully completes a step and at the first indication of success Top Brass takes over and issues a blatant over the top direct command, triggering an access alarm and risking total lockout.

    HOW THIS APPLIES TO COMMUNITY INTERNET INITIATIVES:

    Advocates engage in a methodical effort to provide community Internet access, overcoming on-ramp

  • their own internet.."

    with blackjack and hookers?

"Conversion, fastidious Goddess, loves blood better than brick, and feasts most subtly on the human will." -- Virginia Woolf, "Mrs. Dalloway"

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