The Point Community Development Corporation (The Point CDC) is a non-profit organization in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. Founded in 1994, The Point CDC has been “committed to youth development and the cultural and economic revitalization of Hunts Point.” The organization’s message this summer is that everyone in the community should have access to the internet. Virtual learning this past school year showed us how many families did not have a laptop, much less internet service.
Since 2017, The Hunts Point Community Network has been providing free WIFI service to local businesses and residents. The Digital Stewards Training Program at The Point brings resources and accessibility to those in need in the community.
Is Hunts Point’s Internet Access a Luxury or a Need?
Hunts Point has a heavy industrial presence, with the Food Distribution Center being the main attraction. According to the 2020 census, the average household income is approximately $25,000 annually, and 39% of people live below the poverty line. This leaves many of the residents with little to no access to the internet. Hunts Point is also surrounded by the Bronx and East River, putting this neighborhood at risk of flooding.
We already know the lack of competition when you’re looking for an internet service provider or ISP, so it’s no surprise how expensive the internet is. Just think about the cost of high-speed internet. Or all the times your signal weakened going from one room to the next at home. The consumer can’t control the services offered, yet the internet provider controls accessibility, speed, and cost. So how do you communicate in an emergency? How do we become less dependent on big corporations?
A Community Mesh Network
One solution The Point CDC came up with is the Digital Steward Training Program. The Digital Steward Training Program raises awareness for community technology through education and breaking down the internet in a very simple way, modeling the mesh networks created by The Detroit Digital Justice Team in Detroit, MI, and the Red Hook Mesh Network in Brooklyn, NY. The Digital Steward Training Program at The Point is a six-session 2hr program, meeting twice a week that teaches you the fundamentals of the internet. By the end of this program, you will be able to build and repair a network.
The Break Down
Prior experience is always welcomed but not a requirement. On day one you receive a glossary of the most commonly used words so that you start to learn the language. This is followed up with a video called “Changing America All Together” and this provides some background information addressing some of the current digital challenges that many communities face.
Day two is all about asset mapping and Digital Justice. Asset mapping is just a fancy way to say you are looking at the demographics of an area. You learn to look for the strengths and resources of the community to create solutions. Digital Justice on the other hand is the belief that communication is a fundamental human right. In order to achieve Digital Justice, we will discuss how we can use the EJ Principles and Jemez Principles to create a standard for the community network.
On day three, things heat up and we meet the Portable Network Kit (PNK). This is the only kit needed to start your very own network. The kit is made up of five major components: Router, antenna, server, ethernet cables, and a power source. You will learn the function of each piece, learn how to troubleshoot, and play a game simulating the internet.
By The End
The last three sessions of the program are all hands-on. You will get the opportunity to build your own network with help from other Digital Stewards. By the last session, you’ll start thinking like a Digital Steward and maybe starting a new career!
This program is available to all interested in the internet; if you are a beginner, sign up. If you would like a basic understanding of the internet, then please sign up. Or, if you want to meet the other members of the Hunts Point community, then you should sign up!
For more information on the digital steward training and other services provided by The Point CDC, please visit https://thepoint.org.