A group of Spectrum workers from New York City who have been on strike since 2017 has come together to form a new internet service provider, People’s Choice Communications.
Launched in summer 2020, the goal of the ISP is “to bridge the digital divide and help our neighbors get connected to the Internet during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Since then, People’s Choice has brought high speed internet to two schools and 121 units of emergency housing for victims of domestic violence in the Bronx.
Gizmodo shared the story about the group’s work to create a sustainable internet solution to the city where they say “New Yorkers are unhappy with the high prices and low-quality service of their Internet Service Provider” and many households are left unconnected due to the high cost of service.
The group is using their experience with building the internet infrastructure in New York City before taking part in the longest strike in US history to develop a stronger and more reliable service now. People’s Choice is creating a “mesh network” that includes antennas placed on individual buildings to receive wireless signals from the group’s headquarters. Those in the building can connect with routers.
The website for People’s Choice outlines how the company runs by making customers the owners of the infrastructure. “Our networks are community-owned. After we build out a network in your building, it transfers to cooperative ownership, so profits are returned to users. We are able to provide high-speed service in most cases for $10-20/month. No more cable company ripping you off, and as an owner, you have a vote in policies like data privacy.”
While the reach of People’s Choice is limited for now, the group believes that if the city offers a small investment, the network could grow quickly and keep costs low for all customers while addressing a major issue both in New York City and the country as a whole.
Gizmodo notes that 100,000 students in New York City were lacking internet service as of November 2020. The recently introduced $200 trillion “American Jobs Plan” included broadband expansion, citing the need for long term solutions and describing broadband internet as “the new electricity” to underscore the need for access to provide equality in school, work, and healthcare.