Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Carnegie Claws Back WiFi from Poor

The poor accessing wifi at Carnegie Centre have been cut off.

It used to be that low income people at Carnegie would sit and wait an hour for their turn on a public-access desktop computer to surf the net, until they got hold of laptops and began accessing wifi. Over the past year and a half low income people with lap tops have gotten into the habit of sitting in the big empty room on the third floor of Carnegie in the evenings and surfing the net. Wifi was available there, outside the offices of Carnegie management and the Learning Centre. And it was available in the Carnegie cafeteria on the second floor too, outside the office of CCAP, a project funded by VanCity and run by anti-poverty czar Jean Swanson to lobby for housing for the poor.

Carnegie has put an end to this access. Wifi has been secured so that it cannot be accessed by the poor, only by union members and Carnegie and management.

There is wifi access in the small branch of the Vancouver Public Library on the first floor of Carnegie, but it is painfully slow. Yesterday, six people were huddled around one plug-in at the back of the library, all finding the wifi access too slow.

The rumour is that wifi access was terminated for legal reasons. But the raison d'etre of CCAP and Carnegie is supposed to be to help the poor.

Carnegie has a history of hostility toward the poor eager for internet access. Just look at where they situated the Computer Room. Despite a huge empty space with tables and chairs on the third floor (referred to as the gallery), the computer room which is the service attracting poor people to the third floor in the evenings, is a miniature room tucked in the back beside the washrooms. This was planned, when renovations were occurring years ago. You can literally hear people using the toilet when you're in the computer room. It is such a narrow room that when people walk to the computer they've signed up for, it is impossible to avoid bumping the chairs of other people sitting at computers. This leads to conflict. And the guards get called and people get written up on the "Security" database for causing trouble.

Wifi access for the poor at the UBC Learning Exchange two blocks from Carnegie is, I'm told by two people who use it, also from CCAP. The people who use the Learning Exchange are the same people who use Carnegie. (The Learning Exchange operates weekdays until 5 p.m., unlike Carnegie which is open until 11 p.m. seven days a week.) Doubtful that CCAP will turf the poor off wifi at UBC though; I would bet that CCAP is given money by UBC in exchange for that access. The poverty industry is of course all about money.


Muskie said...

There is lots of Free WiFi in the DTES. There was an attempt to get a Mesh Net up and I think some co-ops have their own networks.

reliable sources said...


"...I think some co-ops have their own networks."

Most Downtown Eastsiders don't live in Co-ops. I know a few people who live in either co-ops or social housing and they don't have internet. I talk to them at Waves where they drop in to use the internet. I have a friend at the Lori Krill Co-op and I think they have free internet access there, but that's the only one I know of.

Carnegie was one of the few places on the DTES where people could get WiFi in the evenings and on weekends and not have to buy a coffee.

Jack Hughes said...

1. If it is a legal issue, that must mean wifi access is blocked at all VPL branches, right? I doubt it, but worth following up on.

2. 3rd floor Carnegie should stay as it is (non-office part anyway). The light, spacious room in the centre is a valued, peaceful sanctuary, the likes of which is very hard to find elsewhere in the DTES.

3. There will always be conflict in the computer room. There is also often conflict (which you've reported on) in the computer room in the building kitty corner to the carnegie. Don't ask me why, just an observation.

Anonymous said...

there were so many people me also in the gallery using the free net from the learning centre that it dragged the signal and slowed the computers down to the point of crashing.that made it impossible for students to work especially the chinese learners. it is only fair to the students i think. how does one do a blog like yours?


Anonymous said...

why not get a job and have your own