Why is there no WiFi? I believe that access to the internet is a right. A community space, budget allowing, should always offer free WiFi.
Why should there be WiFi? Not everyone has an unlimited data plan. Not everyone has access to WiFi at home. I wonder how many people are expected to answer to work emails and messages while working or shopping at the CoOp. It would be great to count on the CoOp, a space that we all put a lot of time and energy into, for access to WiFi. In turn WiFi will give members access to their extended community, their place of work, car sharing services like Car2Go, the list goes on! Most obviously members can freely access all kinds of information!
Internet service doesn’t have to come from the big dogs either! Community owned wifi, using mesh networking technology, is a possibility we should consider!
I went to the office to ask about the possibility of WiFi and I received a hard NO without explanation. I am writing here to see if anyone can offer an explanation. I would be really interested to know.
This letter is a question, not a demand. I am simply looking for more information and people who are also interested in bringing WiFi to the members of the CoOp.
Dear Emma Rae,
You have raised an excellent topic regarding the possibility of free Wi-Fi at the Coop. The primary reason the Coop has not provided this is cost, which we estimate would be at least $30,000 for initial setup, and recurring annual expenses of at least $28,000.
In our fiscal year 2018, our net income was $38,006. As your letter acknowledged, budgets may not always allow for provision of things like Wi-Fi, and we are very focused on low prices. With gross margins that are less than half of other large food coops, Park Slope Food Coop members save on groceries every time they shop. In addition, our recent IT spending and the time and attention of our paid IT staff has favored business-critical projects, such as updating our inventory system, as well as projects to meet sustained member requests, like providing additional web-based services to members. Check out our other new Member Services at foodcoop.com!
To the editors,
A further response to Emma Rae’s letter to the Gazette of 8/2/2018, seeking Wi-Fi at the Coop. General Coordinator Stephanie Lee has responded that Wi-Fi would be too costly for the Coop. In my opinion, even if cost were no object, Wi-Fi is not a good idea for us. Working members with data plans already spend excessive time staring at their phones when they should be. . .working. Shopping members using phones clog the aisles without regard for their surroundings. Can you imagine what it would be like if there were Wi-Fi?
I, for one, don’t think the Coop should be expected to accommodate members who visit, not to shop, but to do personal and professional business unrelated to the Coop’s functions. Members whose employers expect them on call should have devices with data plans provided by said employers, and all the other miscellaneous tasks requiring Internet service can be done at the library. Because the Coop is a community but isn’t a community center.
Dear Editors and Members,
In response to the letter from the 8/30/18 issue: Yes, I agree. Many people are glued to their phones while shopping at the Coop. And yes, this can be frustrating. However, we cannot blame Internet access itself for members spending excessive time on their phones. We could blame the extra-large corporations which profit off the attention economy we all now live in. We could blame the 24-hour work-email cycle. We could even blame the food blogs that list ingredients you could only find at the Coop! It would be misguided to put the blame on access.
To suggest that members who need to be available for work should get data plans from their employers is an unrealistic idea. Given the fast-paced, high-rent, and competitive city we live in it is hard to imagine a world where a 2 hour and 45 minute shift can be done without the anxiety of getting back to work - a reminder that this is a Coop that exists in 2018…not 1970.
It goes without saying that most everything we need has been transferred in some form onto the Internet. Work. Healthcare. Transportation. All of these things that many people depend on can often be accessed over a simple Wi-Fi connection. To ignore this reality is to ensure that the digital divide stays divided. What I’m reading in the last response to my letter is this: You have a data plan? You get to be at the Coop and use the Internet. No data plan? Tough luck. I take issue with this stance as it seems to ignore the fact that data plans come at a price. It is to put a fiscal responsibility on the members where there might otherwise be room for free and open access.
Concerning numbers: I am not sure where the estimate cost of $28,000 a year came from but I believe this number could be drastically reduced with the introduction of a mesh network. A mesh network is also known as a community network and is very similar in structure to a Coop. There are a bunch of wireless routers (members) which all simultaneously connect to each other (shifts) in order to cooperatively distribute data (food) between devices (food suppliers) and the Internet itself (the Coop community).
Finally, I would like to clarify that in my original letter I was by no means implying that members carry out personal or professional work on Coop time. What I was inquiring about was access. This could mean ability to get a ride share, quickly respond to a message, get directions to another location, download a recipe, the list goes on. This is not exclusively a work issue or a member issue, this is an accessibility issue. The Coop, being a community, should consider all options when it comes to Wi-Fi because why not?
Wi-Fi Debate: Members,
Emma Rae Norton’s original letter in the 8/2/18 Gazette
seeking Wi-Fi in the Coop said in part:
“I went to the office to ask about the possibility of Wi-Fi and I received a hard NO without explanation. I am writing here to see if anyone can offer an explanation. I would be really interested to know” The thrust of her letter was the desire to stay connected to work.
This led to Janet Gottlieb’s response in the 8/30/18 Gazette:
“I, for one, don’t think the Coop should be expected to accommodate members who visit, not to shop, but to do personal and professional business unrelated to the Coop’s functions.”
This, in turn, led to Emma Rae Norton’s rejoinder in the 9/13/18 edition, framing her stance on the issue. In response to Gottlieb, Norton observed,
“Given the fast paced, high rent, and competitive city we live in, it is hard to imagine a world where a 2 hour and 45 minute shift can be done without the anxiety of getting back to work—a reminder that this is a Coop that exists in 2018…not 1970.”
I understand how she feels. But, in a way, that’s the very point of shedding the shuffle of all work—all the time. Part of the benefit of the Coop is that we can choose to give ourselves the gift of a shift without the shaft of the shrift. [Say that ten times without fum fering.]
As I watch my granddaughter’s attachment to her iPhone, I see a kind of compulsion. In my own business, people are enslaved to their
devices. The tyranny of intrusion into every part of one’s waking life is exactly that.
One of the reasons for being here is not to return to the ‘70s but to experience what it is and be a part of it now. You miss out if you’re somewhere else. The world can spare you for 2 hours and 45 minutes. It’ll be fine. There’s a whole wonderful microcosm here.
Norton’s letter closes with: “The Coop, being a community, should consider all options when it comes to Wi-Fi because why not.”
I think the reason is obvious.
First I would like to thank the editors for allowing this Wi-Fi conversation to be carried out here and for publishing my letters. Thank you!
What seemingly started out a financial issue has quickly turned into a preferences and politics issue. Can we bring it back to the numbers for a moment? It would be awesome to see a detailed estimate of costs.
Here are some things that people might benefit from with a Wi-Fi connection: ability to transfer money to a bank account, ability to check in on a babysitter, a school, an elderly parent, ability to see email from work or friends or family, ability to request a ride-share. These are all things that many people depend on day in and day out. I believe that the Coop and its members should support fostering a shared space in which all needs are at least considered.
I would like to re-clarify that I am not interested in Wi-Fi so that I can be glued to my phone during my shift. I am not some sort of technology evangelist who wants robots to take over the cash registers and for everyone to always have their headphones in. I am not even interested in being able to check my twitter feed while waiting on line. With that said, I think that the responses so far to the issue of Wi-Fi completely negate the factors of choice and need.
The key word in Rodger's letter from 9/27/18 is choose. Many times throughout my day I choose to disconnect from technology. In many situations, I often choose to be present and experience, as Rodger put it, "being a part of now". I like to do this during my shift and feel lucky that I have been able to make the choice to buy food here.
I do not get to choose to disconnect at the Coop because there is no connection to disconnect from. The "tyranny" and "enslavement" that Rodger writes of, in my opinion, are overly extreme perspectives on technology. To assert what the world can and cannot spare me and that "it'll be fine" is to assume too much!
If the Rodgers and Janets of the Coop would like to stay off the Internet while at the Coop then they should free to do so. If other members would like to connect then I strongly believe they should also be able to make a choice to do so.
It would be great to hear more perspectives on this issue.