SCC-IRG Track 2: Innovations for Community-held Infrastructure

This proposal will launch interdisciplinary research into the design, implementation, and deployment of community-held urban network infrastructure, specifically edge services, edge sensors, and the security aspects thereof, in partnership with two local community-led organizations: Tacoma Cooperative Network (TCN) and the Black Brilliance Research (BBR) Project. Internet access has become a critical component of urban infrastructure, providing innumerable services including employment, banking, civic engagement, education, and others. In spite of this reality, billions of people, even in highly connected urban environments (5% of people in our home city of Seattle, for instance), remain offline. To meet these needs, researchers and practitioners have begun exploring community networks, networks owned, operated, and managed by constituents in order to explore novel business models and connectivity paradigms. While great progress has been made on base network elements (e.g., spectrum access, network architectures), many second-order questions, both social and technical, remain underexamined. We focus on the development of the following community-led innovations: (1) novel network services, such as localized CDNs, community (non-law enforcement-led) crisis management, and digital literacy training; (2) sensing systems, such as gunshot detectors (coupled with the above crisis management), and air and soil monitoring, and (3) related security aspects such as network security and community-based information and data privacy, with the goal of specifically addressing the following questions:1. How should edge compute services best be designed to operate with small stakeholder community networks? What are the social and political implications of these services? 2. How might network-integrated sensing platforms be used to support community-driven reinterpretations of surveillance and improve local resilience? 3. How can small community organizations run secure networks while sharing resources and building social capital among marginalized and minoritized communities? We propose to answer these questions using participatory methods with a uniquely interdisciplinary team of research and practice oriented community organizers, technical researchers, and social scientists. Researchers will work with technology practitioners and community stakeholders to identify current technology conditions and community needs and develop novel sociotechnical systems that directly support local communities. Early discussions with stakeholders have curated our above list of initial agendas (which will be refined through community workshops). These agendas will be supported by a STEM education agenda within partner communities, allowing for local ideation, creation, and support of sensor design, implementation, and deployment.

Grant Info


Kurtis Heimerl

Start Date

Jan 1, 2021