Free WiFi for Williamsburg?
September 21st, 2007

The eight foot tower perched on top of the Capla Kesting Art Gallery in Williamsburg was a small sight to behold, but the much larger shadow it projected onto a nearby wall hinted at the true size of its implications. It captured, amplified, and rebroadcast unprotected wifi signals from the area to be used freely by anyone. But the signals routed through the antenna are easily monitored, so users needed be wary not to do things they wouldn’t want someone else to see.

The project was part joke, part public service. On the one hand, it poked fun at government surveillance by pronouncing it would keep an eye out for homegrown “terrorists,” like the pilot of the mock submarine prank in the East River. On the other, it strove to raise awareness about privacy concerns in a wireless world as well as the feasibility of cheap broadband access.

At least one lawmaker called to commend the gallery for bringing attention to broadband access. “Internet access is a huge tool, especially in underprivileged neighborhoods,” said Amy Cleary, media coordinator for Assemblymember Joe Lentol, who represents Williamsburg.

But David Birdsell, dean at Baruch College and member of the city’s Broadband Advisory Committee, which takes comments from New Yorkers on how technology affects them, was a bit more reserved. Although the city should certainly be considering similar concepts, he notes, approval from the internet providers the tower captures signals from is necessary. Otherwise, Birdsell says, “I very much doubt that this is being considered by municipalities.”

In the end, though, the tower may have just been an art project rather than a service: While the tower was functioning on the night of the gallery opening last Friday, part of it was taken down due to worries of rain. And since then, it has been working only in fits.

By on September 21, 2007, 7:44 am
In category: Arts,Tech | Comments Off on Free WiFi for Williamsburg?

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