Our team includes volunteers and staff from a wide array of local and national organizations. For more information, visit our people page.
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, a detailed study published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia found that a mere 53% of Black residents and 44% of Latinx residents in Philadelphia have broadband connections (Alvaro 2020). The pandemic has dramatically demonstrated the implications of this digital divide and exacerbated existing inequalities for students, business owners, job seekers, and many others.
Our vision extends beyond the current crisis. We seek a long term, sustainable, and affordable Internet for all in Philadelphia, rather than stopgap measures amid this emergency.
The Philly Community Wireless project is currently seeking to connect homes within a one-mile radius around Norris Square to free, net-neutral broadband for at least the next decade. We strive to offer an alternative model for Internet access and to help cities and communities rethink about the Internet as a public utility by involving our users in the construction of the network.
Our goal is to help communities reclaim power through critical digital literacies. As PCW builds towards community-oriented stewardship the basic principles of network engineering and digital literacy so that they can be stewards of the technology, rather than merely recipients.
We believe that access to the Internet is a fundamental human right and that independent, community-owned and -operated wireless is a sustainable and scaleable means of digital inclusion.
We support net neutrality principles and believe that the Internet should be provided free of throttling, zero-rating, and the tracking and monetization of user behavior.
We believe that people matter more than profit and that the principles of cooperation and mutual aid can grow a fundamentally different kind of digital network.
Finally, we believe in starting small, learning from our mistakes, and inviting the input and perspectives of teachers, organizers, users, and technologists alike in building this network.
PCW’s efforts center on mesh networks, a distributed system of network routers which allow a single source of bandwidth to be shared among a broader group of users with very little cost or infrastructure required for connection.
Traditional internet service providers rely on a one-way, centralized hub that transmits network traffic to all users on the receiving end. But with mesh networks, every router both receives and transmits network traffic simultaneously, enabling the network to remain operational even when individual nodes go out of service.
The technical shape of mesh networks (interconnected, resilient) thus reflect the social connections that PCW seeks to amplify (democratic, participatory, decentralized).
What We Need
"Roughly $200 can permanently connect a house to high-speed Internet, with no monthly bills."
We are currently seeking community organizations and building owners in the Fairhill and Kensington neighborhoods who are willing to host network antennas on their rooftops, and to conduct community outreach about this free network connection. Please sign up!
Volunteers for Outreach and Tech Groups
We seek technologists with experience in network engineering to help install and maintain the network connections.
And we need funding to purchase more hardware that will be donated to community members. Roughly $200 can permanently connect a house to high-speed Internet, with no monthly bills.
If you’d like to help in any way, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the Press
Temple Now, Philly Community Wireless offers internet for the community, by the community, 10/7/2021
The Progressive, Cities Struggle to End the Urban Digital Divide, 9/16/2021
installed Norris Square Park Public Wifi
installed West Kensington Ministries
installed Norris Square Neighborhood Project
installed Las Parcelas Gardens
sites identified Norris Square Community Alliance
sites identified Open Kitchen Sculpture Garden
sites identified Kensington Library
sites identified GALAEI
in conversation Village of the Arts and Humanities
in conversation Temple University