A community-run operation named NYC Mesh is on a mission: to deliver better, cheaper broadband service to New York City. The locally-run nonprofit project says it’s engaging in a dramatic expansion that should soon deliver a new, more open broadband alternative to big ISPs to a wider swath of the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
With the installation of a new “supernode,” NYC Mesh has greatly expanded its coverage area to much of western Brooklyn, as well as much of lower Manhattan.
Like most cities, New York City suffers from a meaningful lack of broadband competition. The city’s biggest ISP, Verizon, is currently being sued by the city for failing to fully deploy fiber as part of a 2014 agreement with the city. Verizon’s biggest competitor, Spectrum, is routinely ranked as one of the worst companies in America in customer satisfaction.
Born out of frustration in 2013, NYC Mesh isn’t a traditional business. It’s built on the backs of volunteers and donors who dedicate their time, money, bandwidth, hardware, and resources to building an alternative to the abysmal logjam that is shoddy US broadband.
NYC Mesh member and spokesperson Scott Rasmusen told Motherboard the project hopes to address the fact that between a quarter and a third of NYC residents still don’t have a broadband connection. And those that do have access are often stuck with pricey monopolies that don’t respect consumer privacy.
“NYC Mesh believes in an open, neutral, and resilient internet that is accessible to all people—no matter what their home may look like or how much they can afford,” Rasumussen said. “We believe that the best way of achieving this is to build a network that is entirely community owned and managed.”
Initially, the mesh network was powered by a single “Supernode” antenna and hardware array located at 375 Pearl Street in Manhattan. This gigabit fiber-fed antenna connects 300 buildings, where members have mounted routers on a rooftop or near a window. These local “nodes” in turn connect to an internet exchange point—without the need for a traditional ISP.