We provide neighborhoods with modern tools to organize themselves and an Internet gateway they own and operate with our BlockShare project.

Picture credit: Dominique Knobben

Why the tomatoes? Great of you to ask. While several of us had been pondering how to extend internet to under-served areas of Chicago for years (as well as working at it), the answer came in the form of a question by a participant at one of our South Shore workshops, “I planted some extra tomato plants this year. How do I share my excess with the community?” That question immediately clicked with us and we answered, “We’ll build a community intranet!”

However, in South Shore, residents just don’t have many choices for Internet service. According to decisiondata.org, there are only 3 home service providers and 4 business service providers. Plus, these providers are pretty expensive, and, in our experience, the service is pretty shoddy.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

So we started thinking about building a local intranet, a wifi network connected to a local server with applications so that neighbors can share their garden produce, time, talents and tools. We wanted it to be neighborhood owned and operated, so we’re organizing it as a cooperative.

Blockshare is a wifi mesh network connected to a server and an Internet gateway. Each neighborhood gets its own server and wifi network, so that neighbors can share with each other, but control what other neighborhoods see. The server hosts applications that the neighborhood can use to share their assets and organize themselves with modern Internet-like tools. The Internet gateway connects the neighborhood to the external world. When we get mutiple neighborhoods up and running, we’ll connect them to each other for wider sharing