Most people think free Internet is too good to be true. Yet, a non-profit in Hunts Point has recently begun offering to people in the community.
In an effort to build a more resilient and better connected Hunts Point, The Point CDC, located at 940 Garrison Avenue, in collaboration with New America, is launching Free Hunts Point Community Wi-Fi; a wireless mesh WIFI network, which provides free communication that is resistant to power and internet outages.
The program launched in 2016, took two years to build and recently began implementing it.
“When have you seen free internet?” said Yamil Lora, the community coordinator and theater production coordinator for the Point. “For the people that knows us and the organization, they think it’s a miracle to have high speed Internet.”
The Hunts Point peninsula is a waterfront community, which is home to the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center, various industrial and commercial businesses and residential community.
Due to elevation and proximity to the waterfront, various areas of the peninsula have greater potential for flooding putting business and residents at risk.
The program is funded through philanthropic donations, corporate grants and the NYC Economic Development Corporation. After Hurricane Sandy, the EDC launched a $30 million initiative of 11 resilient technology projects installing at 500 plus super storm Sandy impacted small businesses across the five boroughs.
Lora told the Bronx Times after super storm Sandy, the organization knew it needed to make the community more prepared for an emergency.
However, this is not an idea they came up with overnight. Many cities have used this model throughout the world.
“A lot of people in this community don’t have Wi-Fi,” he commented. “Access to internet isn’t equal across the city and in the world.”
Lora explained this isn’t just about being ready for future hurricanes, but rather being connected as a community.
In underserved neighborhoods like Hunts Point, many people don’t have Internet or it’s slow and unreliable.
Currently, The Point has installed Wi-Fi on houses between Garrison and Lafayette, but is hoping to expand to include the whole peninsula.
He said many people think there is a catch when he tells them it is free. Not only are people getting free high speed Wi-Fi, but the Point is also educating people on how to install and repair it.
“It’s not just access to the Internet, what’s most important is to build a community network,” he stressed. “We’re not trying to make money here.
According to Lora, having a reliable way to communicate with each other is essential and people should not be restricted because of money.
“Communities should be able to solve their own problems,” he said.