Here’s some more videos from the new CDSC Hotspot in Clinton Hill:
One of the reasons why we build free Wi-Fi hotspots is the impact it has on local communities. Our Clinton Hill Hotspot is no different — check out the great photos of kids surfing the internet. We’ve even found some budding TV stars in the 2 kids who were interviewed!
More photos after the break…
On Friday, July 31, 2009 at 11:00 AM at the Playground at the corner of Classon Ave and Lafayette Avenues in Clinton Hill, there will be a Ribbon Cutting ceremony at the hotspot, and we’d like to invite all press members and any NYCwireless member to come out and support the hotspot.
Executive Director, CDSC
Free Wireless Internet For Brooklyn’s Underserved Children
Wi-Fi Hotspot launch set for 11:00 AM on Friday, July 31, 2009
BROOKLYN, NY, July 21, 2009 — NYC’s premier free Wi-Fi installation in a low-income community park, in a groundbreaking collaboration between a neighborhood service organization, Child Development Support Corp (CDSC), and private capital, HARLOWTOWN, will be launched at 11:00 AM on Friday, July 31, 2009 at Brooklyn’s Classon Playground.
The Classon Playground Hotspot represents a stunning triumph of community action to deliver a public service essential in the 21st century: high-speed connection to the Internet, the gateway to the information economy. The 2008 Diamond Report, commissioned by New York City Council, concluded that a majority of the City’s low-income residents, including many children, remain without broadband Internet access and computer skills.
CDSC and HARLOWTOWN, in conjunction with NYCwireless and TECH MEDIA, will provide free Wi-Fi and literacy classes to an underserved Central Brooklyn community. “We felt strongly that our kids needed this now,” said CDSC Executive Director Marcia Rowe-Riddick, “We hope that this partnership may serve as a model for other organizations to bring Wi-Fi and computer literacy into their communities without waiting for government funding or support.”
The Wi-Fi HOTSPOT is at Classon Playground, on the corner of Classon and Lafayette Avenues, flanked by the 88th Precinct Stationhouse to the North, Lafayette Gardens Houses to the East, and the Community Partnership Charter School to the West.
About Child Development Support Corp
CDSC, a 501(c)(3), was created in 1969 to address the needs of low-income and underserved communities of Central Brooklyn. During the late seventies, the organization began preventive and foster care programs to counter the ravages of the drug and gun epidemics in the lives of the families it served. Today, CDSC provides a full range of social service programs for children and families in Community Boards 2, 3, 8, and 16.
HARLOWTOWN is a private NGO that sponsors community projects in Brooklyn and the Bronx, as well as furnishing legal services to the needy and to not-for-profit organizations in the US and across the globe.
NYCwireless (http://www.nycwireless.net) is a non-profit organization that advocates and enables the growth of free, public wireless Internet access in New York City and surrounding areas. NYCwireless, founded in 2001, is an all-volunteer organization with many active members in the New York metropolitan area, across the United States of America, and around the world. In partnership with city parks organizations, business improvement districts and local non-profit organizations, NYCwireless has built free, public wireless Hotspots at Bryant Park, Madison Square Park, Wagner Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Jackson Square Park, Union Square Park (in partnership with commercial wireless Internet provider TowerStream), Stuyvesant Cove Park (the first fully solar powered hotspot in New York), Tompkins Square Park, Bowling Green Park, City Hall Park, the South Street Seaport, the Winter Garden, the Atrium at 60 Wall Street, Stone Street, Wall Street Park, and the Vietnam Veterans Plaza, among others. In addition, NYCwireless worked with Community Access to build free wireless networks in three NYCHA-licensed affordable housing residences. NYCwireless also served as a member of the FCC’s Consumer Advisory Committee.
Earlier today (Wednesday) DoITT released an RFI for “City Wireless Internet Access for New York City Parks and Other Open Spaces” (PIN: 85809RFI0045). I’ve had a chance to review the RFI, and NYCwireless will be responding to it, but I wanted to provide a summary for those of you who haven’t had a chance to read through it yet.
Basically, the City wants to light up more Parks, and is looking for ways to make this happen. We’ve provided lots of suggestions both on and off the record [1, 2, 3], and some of what we’ve said (and certainly what we’ve successfully done) has started to seep through. We should be celebrating that the City is asking questions first before issuing a blanket RFP and they seem to have learned a bit after being burned twice before by the Parks Departments previous RFPs, but the jury is still out on how progressive their ultimate plan will be. This RFI represents baby steps in the right direction, though there’s still a long road ahead for those of us that want to see free Wi-Fi in all city parks and public spaces.
The (Mostly) Good
- DoITT seems to recognize the value in Wi-Fi in parks and public spaces, and indicates that they are clearly aware of the work that organizations other than the Parks Department have done to grow free public Wi-Fi.
- DoITT is open to how they should organize any public-space Wi-Fi initiative, though there are still funding issues (see below).
- More parks are being added to the list of possible Parks Department sanctioned free Wi-Fi, however this does beg the question about how parks not on the “official” list are going to be able to get service.
- The City wants to work with more BIDs in offering free Wi-Fi, though they don’t acknowledge the fact that the BIDs and other organizations that have created free Wi-Fi hotspots have done so without much involvement by the Parks Department, and often in spite of any blockades the Parks Department has put up.
- DoITT is potentially open to other business models for building Wi-Fi hotspots, though as indicated below (and as I have been saying for a number of years), there aren’t any viable ones where businesses can independently fund the buildout and maintenance.
- The City is willing to provide both signage and some publicity for the Wi-Fi hotspots.
- The City will provide free access and use of city-owned property to facilitate the installation of equipment.
- DoITT seems open to reducing insurance requirements for running a hotspot, but even this doesn’t go far enough. We have hotspots where there is NO equipment on park property at all (its on a neighboring building rooftop). Why such installation strategies should require ANY general or personal liability insurance is a mystery (we do carry liability insurance for equipment installation and maintenance).
- Any submissions must be mostly non-proprietary, which means that we should all be able to read whatever companies submit for the RFI (we will publish our submission for all to read on this site). DoITT should go one step further and commit to actually publishing all submissions, so we don’t have to file Freedom of Information Law requests just to get them.
- DoITT talks a lot about “other comparable wireless Internet service” versus Wi-Fi. In the long term, I suppose its important to recognize that laptops and mobile devices may ship with newer wireless standards, but we’re quite a number of years off from this happening, and for the forseeable future, Wi-Fi is it–Apple introduced Wi-Fi on laptops 10 years ago, and those laptops are still compatible with today’s Wi-Fi networks.
- Access to city-owned property isn’t the biggest issue in getting Wi-Fi deployed. Getting reasonably fast internet access lines (or WiMax uplinks) is the biggest problem. NYCwireless has had tremendous success rapidly deploying Wi-Fi equipment on building rooftops and even nearby businesses, but we (and WiFiSalon as well) have spent countless, fruitless hours getting internet lines from Verizon. In a recent example, it took over 4 months to get internet service to Wagner Park, even though our gear was installed within a month of signing a contract.
- DoITT is looking mostly for one or a few companies to step up and do all the work. We’ve long talked about how the City can take a grass-roots approach to getting local parks and public spaces lit up, but for the most part, DoITT is focussing only on the biggest and most prominent locations. This is unfortunate, since the people in lower income and further afield areas are often the ones who benefit the most from such initiatives, but they seem to be mostly left out of this party.
DoITT seems mostly steadfast in their insistence (as the Parks Department has been in the past) that no City funds should be spent on any buildout or maintenance of hotspots. This is still a really big sticking point: The first Parks RFP required that a concessionaire pay significant money to the Parks department, and the second Parks RFP required that a concessionaire pay some proposed amount of money to the Parks department.
There have been only a handful of interested companies (we offered to pay $1), and the WiFiSalon, the only concessionaire that paid any fees was driven out of business by that requirement. Ad revenue is negligible since such networks see a fraction of the impressions that even a second-tier blog sees, and sponsorship dollars are only available to the most prominent parks like Madison Square Park and Bryant Park, and such deals are done only through whole-park sponsorship, not sponsorship of just the Wi-Fi network.
As I’ve said many times before and as the industry has seen countless times, Ad-based business models are unsustainable for individual hotspots and even reasonable sized hotspot networks. If DoITT and the City want to really ensure that free public Wi-Fi should be made available, and that locations other than the most highly-trafficked and well-to-do are served, they need to step up and offer alternative funding models.
One thing to consider is that the companies that can do the installation and maintenance of high-quality outdoor hotspots (there are few) don’t have big advertising or sales teams to make them self-funding. These are two orthogonal specialties and forcing a single company to be capable of both severely limits the applicant pool and threatens the business viability of any participating company. NYCwireless has been successful because we provide all of the back-end technical know how and support for free public Wi-Fi hotspots. We are paid by our partners (BIDs and others) to perform this service, and they do the money raising since that’s what they are good at.
NYCwireless is one of the key team members of BREAKOUT!, and Anthony Townsend (one of our co-founders) is chairing the exhibit. The rest of the board (including me!) will be heavily involved in making this exhibition a reality.
Over a two week period, BREAKOUT! will return creative work to the streets of New York. Using co-working as a model, and injecting lightweight versions of essential office infrastructure into urban public spaces, BREAKOUT! will explore new and productive niches for working outside of traditional office buildings. As the 21st century moves towards a knowledge-based economy, conventional office spaces are becoming obsolete; people no longer need to co-locate in order to access shared tools and resources. BREAKOUT! seeks to create a new architecture for the creative city by appropriating public spaces for collaborative knowledge work.
To find out more about why we are doing this, read the FAQ. For more background on the architectural and organizational design concepts we’re playing with, check our our BREAKOUT! Prezi (thanks to the team at Kitchen Budapest for this awesome Powerpoint killer).
A whole bunch of stuff about our social collaboration tools is in the works and will be posted in a month or so.
We are looking for groups in cities around the world to host local BREAKOUT! festivals and meetups during September 2009. More details will be posted soon.
Key team members:
- Anthony Townsend (Research Director, Technology Horizons Program, Institute for the Future)
- Georgia Borden (Associate Director, DEGW)
- Tony Bacigalupo (co-founder, CooperBricolage)
- Sean Savage (co-founder, PariSoMa)
- Dana Spiegel (Executive Director, NYCwireless)
- Dennis Crowley (founder dodgeball.com)
- Laura Forlano (Kauffman Fellow in Law, Information Society Project, Yale Law School)
BREAKOUT! is being presented as part of the exhibition, “Situated Technologies: Toward the Sentient City,” curated by Mark Shepard and organized the Architectural League of New York. For more information about the exhibition and related projects, visit www.situatedtechnologies.net.