Hooked up: Free wireless coming to Red Hook

Courtesy Pro-Zak's flickr

All the Internet, coming soon! (Via flickr user Pro-Zak)

Well, this sounds awesome. A significant portion of Red Hook is about to get a little tech upgrade, thanks to the efforts of the Red Hook Initiative; they’ll be installing a free wireless network around the neighborhood. The project is spearheaded by Tony Schloss, RHI’s director of media programs; he and a group of neighborhood young adults involved in the youth-and-community-outreach organization, dubbed “Digital Stewards,” have been hard at work installing antennae on top of the RHI building and around Coffey Park, creating a significant wireless hotspot area.

Schloss hopes the project will provide Red Hook residents, many of whom are low-income and have suffered significantly since Hurricane Sandy last year, with much-needed access to Internet.

“There’s about fifty percent broadband access in the neighborhood,” Schloss told us on Monday. “We’re getting Internet access and the resources it supplies. That’s one of our goals.”

The program is funded with some help from FEMA and Brooklyn Fiber, a locally-based Internet service, and the young adults, most of whom are between the ages of 19 and 24, in charge of maintaining and installing the network are employed through a grant from the city. The RHI Digital Stewardship helps them with job, clerical and tech training, which are particularly useful tools in a tech-heavy job market.

“They’re leading the charge here,” Schloss said. “I work with them, but they’re the ones doing the heavy lifting.”

Schloss hopes to expand the program in the neighborhood soon, and it’s not just about the WiFi, either; “When you sign on [to the Internet], you’re hit with our page, which acts as a local directory,” Schloss said. ” You can see events coming up, learn about businesses in the area, local jobs, coupons…The community can share information over local Internet. Local Internet, local communication.”

According to the Digital Stewards’ blog, they hope to hit up 80 percent of the neighborhood’s public spaces by the end of 2013; check out their website to find out more information about the program and the Stewards themselves.