Celebrating 35 Years: Wireless Community Network (WCN) Project

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

35 Facts for CNT’s 35 Years: Each week we’ll expand on one fun fact. Enjoy!

#17 Wireless Community Network (WCN) Project

Bridging the Digital Divide. That’s what CNT began doing in 2002. CNT recognized that the revolution of the

wcn-colorInternet and the near ubiquity of computing left too many low- and moderate-income communities shut-out of the market for broadband because of high costs and de facto redlining. This left them behind as the economy transitioned to one where the medium is bytes and bits, not textiles and steel. Wireless broadband technologies, however, offered the potential to bridge this digital divide because they can be inexpensive to deploy and more adaptable than wired networks.

CNT established three pilot projects to deliver very low-cost, high-speed broadband access to homes, small businesses, and community-based institutions in Chicago’s Pilsen and Lawndale neighborhoods and West Frankfort, in a former coal mining town in Southern Illinois. Using off-the-shelf wireless fidelity (Wi-Fi) equipment—the same found in any computer retailer—in conjunction with leading edge, open source mesh networking software developed by the Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network, CNT deployed pilot networks in these communities with high speeds and at a low cost.

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