Net-neutrality rules that prevented large Internet providers from arbitrarily slowing down user connections are set to start going out the window Monday — but a group of tech-savvy New Yorkers says not to worry.
The nonprofit group NYC Mesh has been erecting antennas all over the city, building a giant network that it says will still give New Yorkers low-cost — and unfettered — access to the Web.
“We don’t collect any data at all, [and] we do not snoop on what Web sites you’re going to, and so that gives you a private connection,” said organizer Brian Hall.
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The community-owned wireless network is an alternative to such megaproviders as Verizon and Time Warner, members say.
It is also cheaper, they say.
NYC Mesh charges about $160 to install its equipment, but then its monthly Internet service costs whatever you decide.
For example, users can pay the $20 that the company estimates its monthly service costs or more if they want to subsidize those who pay less. Users also can decide to pay nothing at all.
The group is run by volunteers, and no one gets paid, members said.
The Federal Communications Commission voted in December to get rid of the neutrality rules. The repeal was scheduled to begin going into effect Monday, although the federal Office of Management and Budget still has to review some rule-cutting measures.
When the repeal is complete, critics say Internet-service providers could slow down connections to content they don’t like.
A common example is an ISP blocking a user’s access to another ISP’s Web site so they can’t sign up for a competing service.
Interest in NYC Mesh has skyrocketed since the FCC’s decision, Hall said.
“We’d normally get 20 requests a month to join, and in December, we got 438,” he said. “It’s continued like that.”
The group’s current main antenna is a 90-foot-tall “supernode” that stands in downtown Manhattan and connects to the Internet.
The supernode broadcasts an Internet connection out about two miles. NYC Mesh members pick up the signal through a “node’’ on their roofs.
Each user node is approximately the size of a satellite-TV dish.
Those smaller nodes also act as repeaters that forward the supernode’s signal beyond its radius, so each user is effectively increasing the network’s range farther and farther from lower Manhattan.
Still, major ISPs deny that they have any plans to interfere with customers’ Internet access.
In a statement to The Post, Spectrum said, “We don’t slow down, block, or discriminate against lawful content.” A Verizon spokesman said, “Nothing has changed, and we have no intent to do anything differently.”
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