Oct. 24, 2016
Greta Byrum was featured in a Fastcoexist article:
In six coastal New York City neighborhoods where broadband internet access is poor, the New America Foundation is working to create free open-source community Wi-Fi that can stay up as an independent network, enabling local communications even if internet goes down in a storm. It is working with about 60 business to install routers on their rooftops, also providing free Wi-Fi in the immediate area that could attract customers to their businesses.
But the most important part of their program, says New America’s project director Greta Byrum, is that they are training community leaders who will be able to maintain these networks locally and mobilize around them during emergencies. She calls it "resilience organizing."
The program is based on the Red Hook Initiative, another RISE grant winner that had created a similar communications network just prior to Hurricane Sandy and is now expanding it. "It enabled them to keep organizing locally, to the point where even when FEMA showed up, they wanted to use that network," Byrum says.
One challenge, for all of the RISE projects, will be scaling these technologies beyond those dozens of businesses participating in the grants. Free storm resilience measures are great, but many small businesses would otherwise struggle to find the capital or capacity to implement them.
For New America’s decentralized Wi-Fi networks, Byrum says the service is the training that the nonprofit provides: "Applying the idea of scale to this has to do with local folks," she says. "We don’t want any of these networks to ultimately depend on us."