Our team includes volunteers and staff from a wide array of local and national organizations. For more information, visit our people page.
The Big Picture Alliance recently completed a documentary film about the early stages of the PCW project. Check it out on YouTube
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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 in the Fairhill and Kensington neighborhoods of North Philadelphia 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.
Community-managed and owned wireless mesh networks have cropped up across the United States in the last couple decades. Philly Community Wireless is inspired by similar projects in New York City, Detroit, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and other cities across America. We are indebted to the work and documentation available on NYC Mesh’s website.
Visit our Docs for more info on the technical infrastructure and process.
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!
At the moment, we are seeking technologists with experience in network engineering to help install and maintain the wireless network infrastructure. We always welcome interested community organizations and residents to get involved with any aspect of the project and learn as you contribute. Summer 2022 we plan to run public training events to onboard new people. For more info on roles for volunteers and onboarding processes, see our Volunteer page
We are looking for additional funding to purchase more hardware that will be donated to community members, including alternative technologies that could supplement our baseline service. Roughly $200 can permanently connect a house to high-speed Internet, with no monthly bills. Please visit our We Did It page to contribute! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the News
Technical.ly Philly, Alex Wermer-Colan and PCW awarded Community Tech Leader of the Year 2022, 12/14/2022
Al Dia, Bringing Digital Equity to North Philadelphia, 5/13/2022
Technical.ly Philly, A group of Philly technologists are working on a free, community-based mesh Wi-Fi network, 2/1/2022
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
installed West Kensington Ministries
installed Norris Square Neighborhood Project
installed Las Parcelas and Colobo Gardens
installed Cesar Andreu Iglesias Gardens
installed Kensington branch of Free Library of Philadelphia
installed Lillian Merrero branch of Free Library of Philadelphia
installed Norris Square Community Alliance multidwelling buildings
installed Norris Square Community Alliance St. Boniface School
installed Clay Studio
sites identified Open Kitchen Sculpture Garden
sites identified Impact Services
sites identified Crane Arts
in conversation HACE
in conversation Urban Creators Life Do Grow Farms
in conversation Village of the Arts and Humanities
in conversation Temple University Main Campus and Hospital