Monday, October 25, 2021
Amid significant poverty and a lack of robust infrastructure, 40 percent of Detroit residents struggle to access reliable broadband service. Fortunately, organizations like theDetroit Community Technology Project (DCTP) exist to challenge the status quo.
DCTP’s mission is “to use and create technology rooted in community needs that strengthens neighbors’ connection to each other, and to the planet.” Through Project OVERCOME, DCTP and its partners at Grace in Action Collectives are targeting the digital divide in one southwest Detroit neighborhood, an area that is home to many low-income immigrants and Black and Brown families. The DCTP team is bringing community-owned communications infrastructure to the region and working to ensure that improved internet access leads to better health outcomes, greater job readiness, and overall economic growth.
With a goal to provide reliable, affordable broadband service combined with high levels of customer support, DCTP has partnered with technology company 123NET, which will deploy fiber into the Detroit neighborhood before hanging aerial fiber lines directly to residential homes. Customer installations will be completed by trusted and trained local residents, who also are building a new fixed wireless network by connecting additional homes and businesses with point-to-point radios and adding outdoor public hotspots.
The idea of using local installers for broadband deployments comes from the Digital Stewards Program. In 2012, Allied Media Projects (AMP) partnered with the Open Technology Institute of the New America Foundation to create the Digital Stewards Program. Digital Stewards are community residents who act as installers, community organizers, teachers, problem solvers, and advocates. As part of Project OVERCOME, Grace in Action’s Digital Stewards will encourage internet adoption by canvassing the local neighborhood to share information, answer questions, and collect feedback. They will prioritize both one-on-one meetings and large community gatherings, aiming to build community trust through direct connections with neighbors, business owners, and church and school administrators.
The Detroit fiber pilot marks phase one of a community fiber infrastructure initiative envisioned by DCTP for scaling the Digital Stewards curriculum. The lessons learned in the Project OVERCOME effort will inform city- and statewide infrastructure funding and policy and will highlight the impact and expertise of community voices in large-scale deployments of emerging technology.
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US Ignite is accelerating the smart community movement – and creating value for an entire ecosystem – by guiding communities into the connected future, creating a path for private sector growth, and advancing technology research that’s at the heart of smart city development. Project OVERCOME is delivering broadband services to the underserved and unserved populations in seven communities. The project is led by US Ignite with financial support from the National Science Foundation and Schmidt Futures.
The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to competitive, High-Performance Broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy – rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity – has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.
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