Search
  • Jamie Greig

Medium: Connecting Rural Appalachia with Community-Owned Broadband (Mozilla)

4/5/2019 Connecting Rural Appalachia with Community-Owned Broadband

https://medium.com/read-write-participate/connecting-rural-appalachia-with-community-owned-broadband-817723022187 1/5

Connecting Rural Appalachia with

Community-Owned Broadband

The Southern Connected Communities Network

(SCCN) couples access with agency in Tennessee

This is a spotlight on the Southern Connected Communities Network

(SCCN), a grand prize winner in our NSF-WINS challenges. Learn more

about the NSF-WINS competition here.

Mozilla Follow

Sep 25, 2018 · 3 min read




. . .

When you think of high-speed internet, you might picture underground

cables owned and operated by corporate ISPs.

But in New Market, TN, high-speed internet looks like quite the

opposite: an 80-foot tower owned and operated by the very community

members who rely on its connectivity.

This is the approach of the Southern Connected Communities Network

(SCCN), a novel approach to connecting the unconnected in the U.S.,

The Southern Connected Communities Network tower

4/5/2019 Connecting Rural Appalachia with Community-Owned Broadband

https://medium.com/read-write-participate/connecting-rural-appalachia-with-community-owned-broadband-817723022187 2/5

where some 34 million Americans lack high-quality internet access.

SCCN is a project by the Highlander Research and Education Center —

and it just won a $400,000 grand prize in Mozilla and the National

Science Foundation’s NSF-WINS Challenges.

“When you live in the rural South, your kids’ education, your next job,

your healthcare, and your right to a political voice all are limited by

slow, expensive, unreliable, and corporate-controlled internet

connectivity — and that’s if it exists at all,” says Allyn Max􀁢eld-Steele,

Co-Executive Director of the Highlander Center. “So we’re claiming

internet like the human right it has become. We’re building a local

digital economy governed by us and for us.”

How does SCCN work? On a technical level, SCCN uses an 80-foot

tower to draw wireless backbone from Knoxville, TN via the public 11

GHz spectrum. The tower then redistributes this broadband

connectivity to local communities using line-of-sight technology.

But there’s a community aspect, too — the tower is owned and operated

by local residents. “It’s not just about the technological stu􀁩,” Max􀁢eld-

Steele says. “It’s about how do we build it and how do we control it and

demystify it.” This happens through grassroots organizing and

education, Max􀁢eld-Steele explains.

The Southern Connected Communities Network tower

4/5/2019 Connecting Rural Appalachia with Community-Owned Broadband

https://medium.com/read-write-participate/connecting-rural-appalachia-with-community-owned-broadband-817723022187 3/5

He adds: “This project seeks to ground internet access in a human

rights framework: where people not only have access to one of the 21st

century’s most important economic determinants, but where people

can self-determine, collectively, how that access plays out.”

The results have been hugely encouraging: “With this project, we’re

able to connect people from rural Appalachia and the deep south with

folks across the globe,” Max􀁢eld-Steele says.

In the months ahead, the Highlander team will use the prize money to

“organize and build out the initial prototype,” Max􀁢eld-Steele notes.

From there, they’ll scale — bringing their community access approach

to others who, up until now, have been underconnected. “Hopefully

over the next couple years we’ll expand into two or three di􀁩erent

communities,” Max􀁢eld-Steele says.

The Southern Connected Communities Network team

4/5/2019 Connecting Rural Appalachia with Community-Owned Broadband

https://medium.com/read-write-participate/connecting-rural-appalachia-with-community-owned-broadband-817723022187 4/5

4/5/2019 Connecting Rural Appalachia with Community-Owned Broadband

https://medium.com/read-write-participate/connecting-rural-appalachia-with-community-owned-broadband-817723022187 5/5

21 views0 comments