wireless network

Community Organizing and Wireless Network Deployment

VISTA Name: 
Melissa Niiya
Program Start: 
9/2009
Program End: 
9/2011
Project Description: 

The AmeriCorps*VISTA project we are proposing is a critical component of our community technology program to promote broadband deployment and adoption in the low income neighborhoods we serve. We seek to build the capacity of our wireless and wired networks that will be installed in our affordable housing projects through the development of a program that will distribute community-based resources (equipment, trainings, information), establish resident advisory committees, and deploy wireless networks.

Our AmeriCorps*VISTA member will support our initiative through community outreach, surveys, and technical support. Specifically, s/he will:

- Develop and implement community-based outreach strategies for community wireless adoption and participation.
- Collaborate with other project partners to develop outreach plans to expand our presence in the targeted communities.
- Develop educational resources for community technology staff and residents in the targeted communities.
- Coordinate and build the capacity of a community advisory committees in the targeted communities
- Organize, coordinate, and develop community education workshops delivered by volunteers on community wireless networks
- Develop sustainability models for the deployment of community wireless networks
- Coordinate volunteer efforts to plan and deploy neighborhood wireless networks
- Meet with technology center managers to coordinate community workshop activities
- Work with project partners to build the technology skills capacity of youth in South Los Angeles
- Develop a volunteer base of technology and community activists to support the deployment and sustainability of community wireless networks

Goal 1: Promote and increase the adoption of broadband within low-income communities
Goal 2: Build the capacity of deployed community Wi-Fi networks through community participation.

Project Outcome: 

The VISTA member has been instrumental in increasing the overall capacity of the Community Technology department. We now have documented standards and procedures for deploying residential and community Wi-Fi networks, as well as a track record and experience that can be used to provide technical assistance to other groups seeking to deploy similar Wi-Fi networks. We have compiled not only the technical procedures for wireless deployment but also a best practices guide, as we have learned from the challenges we’ve faced. The VISTA also helped to develop criteria and a process for selecting future contractors for our new networks. To ensure the sustainability of our networks we need to continue working with LTSC’s real estate and property management departments to develop a system for ongoing support and maintenance of the networks.

The VISTA member also assisted with grant writing, reporting and research to support and build the capacity of the Community Technology department. She also helped with program and curriculum development for the DISKovery Center’s digital media classes covering basic computer and internet skills to more advanced digital video editing and production. She also established a public access WiFi network at LTSC’s DISKovery Computer Center in Little Tokyo. The VISTA’s accomplishments in these areas seemed a natural addendum to the stated goals. She has proven herself to be highly competent in many areas and has therefore been given additional projects and responsibilities, as time and her own interests allowed. Since she is extremely self-motivated and is capable of accomplishing projects thoroughly and quickly, we were able to involve her in additional projects beyond what was proposed.

- Development of community and residential wi-fi resource materials made available online.
- Development and dissemination of publicity and outreach materials to promote the Little Tokyo community through flyers, a community blog developed by and for community wireless users, print materials and a community wi-fi website.
- Establishment of a community wireless blog to document the challenges and successes in deploying community wireless networks.
- Deployment of three new free community Wi-Fi networks in LTSC’s affordable housing communities. Accomplishments toward achieving stated goals:
- Curriculum developed for wifi trainings in the form of a wiki. The wiki was developed with some server assistance from Wataru Ebihara, LTSC’s Network Administrator.
- Resource materials developed for wifi users / volunteers / nonprofits wishing to start wifi networks, also on the wiki.
- Flyers for outreach developed with Spanish translation help from Sugey Salazar, computer instructor.
- Community blog developed using a free blogger account. The VISTA has worked to transition administration of the blog to the LT community council for its ongoing sustainability.
- Computer Adoption Program (CAP) program planned and organized, and additional wifi curriculum developed for the class
- 10 families served.
- Wifi deployed in the Reno Apartments using open source mesh routers from Open Mesh and broadband over power (BPL) technology to deploy a robust network at Reno. Switched Angelina Apartments to open source Open Mesh to enable better usage tracking.
- Usage tracking of Wi-Fi networks
- using free and open source tracking called CoovaOM, developed tracking methods and documentation for residential Wi-Fi networks.
- Developed a Request for Proposals for the development of 5 new broadband networks in affordable housing projects; developed criteria for selecting a proposal and oversaw selection of contractor for these new networks.

Second Year

While residents want broadband access, the majority are dissatisfied with wireless technology and the stability of the networks. With the support of LTSC staff, Melissa has helped move the organization toward a more sustainable model of providing residents with internet access (through wired DSL installation and through providing residents with information on low cost communications services). This plan was implemented in the latter half of her service year. Two of the current wireless networks were sold to an independent contractor, who will maintain a lower bandwidth free network while charging for a higher speed pay-to-play network. The remaining networks will be transitioned to an independent contractor after Melissa completes her service year.

While Melissa did not create a DIY computer curriculum due to shifts in program priorities, the other curricula she has created - Digital Histories film class, Internet Safety, Photoshop, and Social Media - will continue to be used in subsequent classes. Broadband Content Development Melissa has developed several websites for the organization, which have been instrumental in promoting our programs and services and raising our visibility. She also connected these sites to social media pages the create a seamless online presence. Melissa has made sure to document the websites she has created so that the organization will be able to maintain them. She has given trainings on Facebook and Joomla to the Little Tokyo Community Council and to LTSC staff.

Impact Quote: 

Thank you very much. We are sad to see Melissa and Tiffany go. They have contributed tremendously to our program and it is truly a loss to see them go.”

- Naomi Uchida-Boas, Supervisor

Wireless Network Installation and Community Outreach

Organization: 
Technology for All
VISTA Name: 
James Carlson
Program Start: 
6/2006
Program End: 
6/2007
Project Description: 

James worked for Technology For All in our TFA-Wireless social enterprise. TFA-Wireless is a joint research project with TFA and Rice University. The network provides free wireless internet to low income under resourced community in South East Houston. His efforts were focused in the area of community wireless networking with primary areas of responsibility covering implementation, administration and expansion of a multi-node wireless mesh network providing covering 3 Sq Km.

Project Outcome: 

As a graduate Electrical Engineering from Georgia Tech the technical requirements of his position were quickly mastered. In addition to the technical aspects of the project James had worked in the area of community engagement as a regular as part of his responsibilities. The community is primarily Latino, many of which are recent or first generation immigrants. The biggest hurdle for James in this area was the language barrier as James was not conversational in Spanish. The opportunity and challenges in this type of research network abound. Regardless of these challenges, James was highly successful in increasing the range and scope of services we can offer the residents of these areas and his presence will be missed from both in the interpersonal arena as well as his technical proficiency.

Outreach Coordinator and Wireless Network Installation

VISTA Name: 
Ross Musselman
Program Start: 
3/2006
Program End: 
9/2007
Project Description: 

Ross worked with CUWin developers and community members to implement CUWin software by setting up wireless access points. Ross also worked closely with the CUWiN core staff to build sustainability and growth with the project.

Project Outcome: 

Ross was required to wear many hats during his work with CUWin. On the technical and external side Ross work closely with CUWiN developers and local activists to implement CUWiN software in our domestic network sites—setting up wireless access points in areas that community members had identified as key sites. He helped install and troubleshoot network nodes in Champaign and Urbana and develop manuals and instructions in order to provide technical support to local residents and partners to help maintain the local wireless network. Internally, Ross worked closely with the CUWiN core staff to facilitate the growth of the CUWiN project. This showed itself in our growth and the development of our leadership and advisories boards and the partners we have developed.

Reno Apartments Wireless Plan

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The plan for Reno Apartments Wireless Mesh Deployment by corps member Melissa Niiya.

Transmission Project