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- Vice’s Motherboard is attempting to build its own community-based internet network in hopes of inspiring a nationwide grassroots movement.
- Motherboard will begin building their community-owned internet network sometime next year.
Vice Media isn’t just grumbling about the FCC’s move to kill net neutrality, it’s doing something about it.
Motherboard, the tech and science website owned by Vice, is building a community-owned internet network in its Brooklyn home turf. And it’s documenting the process every step of the way in hopes of inspiring a nationwide movement.
The initiative is spearheaded by Motherboard’s editor-in-chief, Jason Koebler, who has reported extensively on community internet networks in the US. Koebler describes community-owned networks as a core coverage area for Motherboard. “As a publication, we believe that the internet should remain free and open,” Koebler said in an interview with Business Insider. “Telecom monopolies have made it much more difficult for people to access the internet, especially in rural or underserved communities.”
The Motherboard effort comes as the FCC rolls back Obama-era regulations that prevented broadband internet providers from blocking certain websites and from charging more for internet “fast lanes.”
Koebler’s plan for building a community-based network out of Vice’s Williamsburg headquarters was inspired by the success of an underserved Detroit community that built their own internet network earlier this year. According to Koebler, the connection now provides internet to three Detroit neighborhoods that were historically ignored by big telecom.
All you need is a router
Motherboard is teaming up with NYC Mesh, a community-owned internet network in New York that currently has about 100 monthly users in Bushwick. “The plan is for us to become another node in their network,” says Koebler, “We’ll own and operate this node out of their network and provide internet to more people both in Williamsburg and over the East River.”
Koebler says that in order to connect to the network, users will need to purchase a special router, but beyond that it will be completely free.
But Koebler’s vision for the network is bigger than providing free internet to a local neighborhood: he hopes to inspire a nationwide movement in the light of Thursday’s net neutrality repeal.
Koebler knows his plan is ambitious. “It’s a daunting task to replicate the internet across the country,” he said, “But what we’re seeing is that this is working for pockets of people all over the country at a pricepoint that’s affordable.”
By building an internet network of its own, Vice plans to highlight a DIY solution an internet market that’s almost entirely monopolized by big telecom. “This will be an editorial initiative for Motherboard for all of 2018,” said Koebler.
Motherboard will extensively document the creation of Vice’s community network so that others can learn how to make their own. “We want to support what’s already been done in this area, and do it from a journalistic endeavor to see how it’s done,” said Koebler, “We’re attempting to create a playbook for doing this in other towns.”
Koebler says that he hopes to dispel the myth that internet users must rely entirely on an internet service provider to obtain online access. “ My overall vision for the internet is that it’s locally owned, it serves the people who connect to it, and that the people who connect to it own it, or know the owner who lives down the street.”
You can learn more about Vice’s community network internet initiative here.
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