social entrepreneurial
cFree Wireless (social entrep)
cFree Wireless (social entrep)
9 years, 5 months ago Posted in: social entrepreneurial, work 0

Established in 2005, The Corridor Free Wireless Project or, cFree, is a self-sustaining collaborative community-building project that bridged the for-profit, non-profit and government sectors to create what was (at the time of its launch) the largest multi-city free community wireless network in the Midwest and one of the first non-municipally owned free wireless networks of its size in the entire country.  Led by The James Gang, The Cedar Rapids Downtown District, Gazette Communications and a number of local municipal and technology partners, the project provides free wireless internet in downtown parks and urban spaces in Cedar Rapids, Coralville and Iowa City, Iowa (USA).

This project was a highly collaborative effort that drew on a wide array of community resources and was led by a board of directors who at its founding had an average age of about 28.  The project’s startup costs were funded through a combination of private and public money and the system’s ongoing maintenance costs are covered through advertising.  I served as the co-founder and president of the inaugural board of directors.  The network is now its own free-standing community-run, nonprofit organization.

Inspired by the Austin City Free Wireless Project, cFree decided to forgo a similar system of cobbled together used wi-fi routers and instead built a robust, military-grade mesh wi-fi network.

The goal of the project was to provide free access to the internet in public parks and urban spaces because:

  1. Public access to the internet helps individuals pursue their own creative endeavors and personal interests, increasing quality of life.
  2. Free internet access adds value to public spaces and parks, thus encouraging more community members to utilize these spaces and increase the pedestrian traffic in business districts.
  3. The implementation of this wireless project encourages people to interact in the community (“Interacting neighbors build stronger communities”), stimulates business, and moves participating cities towards the technology infrastructure of the future.
  4. Free wireless hotspots add technological “style” to urban environments and increase appeal amongst certain key demographics.

(Additional Benefit: It was reported that during the epic flooding in Iowa in 2008 The cFree Wireless Network was used by emergency and rescue crews to access critical internet-based communication and mapping tools, because other traditional communication networks had been disrupted due to the high water.  The cFree Wireless Network continued to function despite massive flooding because all of the network’s broadcast repeaters sit high atop buildings and radio towers.)

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