Community Organizing and Wireless Network Deployment

VISTA Name: 
Melissa Niiya
Program Start: 
Program End: 
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.

Wireless Network Deployment and Community Outreach

VISTA Name: 
Emilio Flores
Program Start: 
Program End: 
Project Description: 

Goal 1: Advance opportunities for free or inexpensive broadband Internet access by low- and moderate-income Boston residents through innovative technology and tech support

Goal 2: Enhance cooperation among the first Boston area nonprofit housing development efforts to experiment with WiFi wide area networks

Goal 3: Evaluate MIT Roofnet software as a low-cost potential component of attempts to improve citywide access to broadband

Project Outcome: 

Emilio developed a detailed deployment plan for a free community Internet program at Castle Square using MIT Roofnet mesh networking software. He recruited and trained two Castle Square resident youth and six Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology (BFIT) students to assist in the deployment and outreach to the community. He did outreach to residents about the opportunity to participate in the project and the availability of technical support. He led the team that installed and configured customer premise equipment and provided training and technical support to enable residents to join the wireless network.

Additionally, Emilio enhanced cooperation among the first Boston area nonprofit housing development efforts to experiment with WiFi wide area networks by such means as: 1) Played a central, hands-on role maintaining and upgrading pre-existing wireless networks in collaboration with Madison Park Development Corp. (MPDC) and the South End Technology Center (SETC) at Tent City. 2) Convened meetings at Castle Square of representatives of the City of Cambridge, Mass Housing, MPDC, SETC, CSTO and BFIT to share experiences and plans, learn from each other and devise ways to assist each others’ work. 3) Held a series of outreach/training events to share our results with other housing developments.

Emilio Flores, serving as an AmeriCorps*VISTA Member started some months after the project was initiated but it didn’t really get rolling until he came on board. He took the lead in organizing communications with the 120 families that joined the network and in arranging for them to be served by the free wireless Internet. In doing that, he managed a team of resident youth, work-study teams and volunteers. He played a principal continuing role in monitoring the network and working to improve its performance. Emilio served as chair of a distinguished advisory committee that worked to enhance communications among existing and developing housing-based wireless projects in Boston and Cambridge and awarded $10,000 in grants to support such projects. He also took the lead role in organizing presentations about the team’s work.

Wireless Network Installation and Community Outreach

Technology for All
VISTA Name: 
James Carlson
Program Start: 
Program End: 
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: 
Program End: 
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.

TeleCommunity Resource Center

Bastrop, TX

The TeleCommunity Resource Center (TCRC) project is a non-profit program created to advocate and help develop benefits of Internet technology for all communities, especially those in rural and underserved areas. We also work to assist ‘virtual communities’ of people with shared interests.

The fundamental TCRC objective is encouragement and support for locally directed Internet projects; our primary strategy is using the many resources already available from public and private organizations, supplementing those existing resources as needed with current information, planning and consulting resources, plus assistance securing financial support.

Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network (CUWiN)

Urbana, IL

CUWiN (the Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network) is a world-renowned coalition of wireless developers and community volunteers committed to providing low-cost, do-it-yourself, community-controlled alternatives to contemporary broadband models. CUWiN is fiscally sponsored by the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, a non-profit 501c3.

Our mission is to develop decentralized, community-owned networks that foster democratic cultures and local content. Through advocacy and through our commitment to open source technology, we support organic networks that grow to meet the needs of their community.

To achieve that mission CUWiN maintains international and domestic partnerships with dozens of research institutions, not-for-profit organizations, community groups, businesses, universities, and government institutions. To inquire about becoming a CUWiN partner, send an email to cu-wireless-support@cuwireless.net.

PHD Affordable Housing Development Wireless Request for Proposals


PHD Affordable Housing Development Wireless Request for Proposals developed by corps member Melissa Niiya.

LTSC Wireless Wiki


A wiki detailing the wireless networks deployed for LTSC by corps member Melissa Niiya. Visit http://wiki.ltsc.org/index.php?title=Main_Page.

Transmission Project