In a 3-2 vote last week, the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality rules enacted in 2015 to keep big telecoms from capping internet usage, throttling bandwidth and charging more for services such a streaming media. Most tech companies and the public, in general, were against the repeal, and the ruling left a bad taste in the mouths of some but seen as an opportunity by others such as Vice and Motherboard, who have decided to build their own community-driven internet network.

 

Vice Media and their offshoot tech news site Motherboard is building that community-driven network at its Brooklyn headquarters and is documenting the whole endeavor in hopes that it will inspire a nation-wide trend for others to develop their own. Vice will also connect their network to the greater NYC Mesh network to strengthen the community internet.

 

Motherboard’s editor-in-chief Jason Koebler describes their initiative is only in the beginning stages and still has far to go, “We are in the very early stages of this process and have begun considering dark fiber to light up, hardware to use, and organizations to work with, support, and learn from. To be clear and to answer a few questions I've gotten: This network will be connected to the real internet and will be backed by fiber from an internet exchange. It will not rely on a traditional ISP.”

 

Vice is hoping that by documenting every part of the process of creating their internet, others will be able to replicate it. They hope to have a complete DIY guide published sometime next year, which will feature technical, legal and political aspects of getting your network off the ground.

 

Vice’s network isn’t the first DIY network to arise as an alternative to big telecoms as some of Detroit’s disenfranchised communities are building their own internet as well through the Equitable Internet Initiative (EII), which works with two pieces of infrastructure- a local church (Church of the Messiah) that serves as a hub for Wi-Fi and an ISP (Rocket Fiber) that will provide high-speed internet. Trained EII volunteers will deploy wireless access points to beam the Church’s connection over the air, giving those without a hookup a way to connect to the internet.

 

EII will focus on those that can’t afford a high-speed connection as well as those who can only get a 10Mb or less connection, which would give those living in those areas a chance to pursue educational opportunities and wellbeing through community and nation-wide socialization. EII also offers a Next Gen Apps program that teaches students coding basics such as CSS, HTML, JavaScript, and others through a STEM-like service, which they then can use as a platform for a career in coding.

 

Regardless of how you feel about net neutrality, it's great seeing what a community can do when faced with uncertainty or obstacles and DIY internet is indeed an impressive result to the big telecom question.

 

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