Internet Multi-Stakeholder Cooperative Solution to Digital Divide

Cut out the middleman

A new community-owned internet cooperative is helping to bridge the digital divide for underserved New Yorkers by providing low cost wifi systems. The People’s Choice cooperative has five hubs in the Bronx and may expand to more New York housing complexes soon.

People’s Choice Communications is an employee-owned social enterprise launched by members of IBEW Local #3 to bridge the digital divide and help our neighbors get connected to the Internet during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are the workers who built a large part of New York City’s Internet infrastructure in the first place…. We built out Spectrum’s cable system, until in 2017, the company pushed us out on strike by taking away our healthcare, retirement, and other benefits. It’s now the longest strike in US history. Our team built Spectrum/Charter’s cable network across New York City, serving 2.2 million customers. In 2017, we went on strike when the company attempted to take away workers’ rights, retirement, healthcare benefits. Now we are putting our skills to work for our community in this time of need.

People’s Choice

Worker cooperative versus volunteer organization?

When I lived in Brooklyn I attended many of the NYC mesh meetings. They are an amazing group of volunteers, but I always wondered what it would take to create paid jobs and whether those jobs could be inside of a worker owned cooperative. We are seeking people in Michigan wishing to explore how we can build Community Owned Internet Networks. Our first step will be simply to recruit members for a Michigan chapter of the Internet Society.

NYC Mesh is one of many fixed-wireless outfits in New York City. They range from community-owned models — like the D.I.Y. “internet in a box” efforts led by the digital justice organization Community Tech NY, and the internet cooperative People’s Choice, started by former Spectrum strikers — to smaller for-profits like Starry, a Boston-based start-up rolling out flat-rate internet plans of $50 a month in large urban markets including New York City.

NY Times

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