When they go low by denying internet access to suppress voters, go high with free internet hotspots to help voters and build contact lists at the same time.
Black, brown and Native American communities; poor rural and urban areas suffer from a lack of internet connectivity. This hold them back and makes it harder for them to vote in order to change their situation. Residents are hard to reach when they are offline and unlikely to be found on a contact list or voter file. Organizers struggle to canvas in communities without neither cell coverage nor internet access.
How bad is it? Check this map and click on any county. Note the overlap between the level of poverty and lack of internet access. This lack of connectivity denies access to online resources, and also makes it harder for them to register to vote, request absentee ballots and locate polling locations.
Use free internet to get their attention
Lack of internet access is used for voter suppression and to hold back communities. Free internet access is a huge draw in these communities and be used to organize and build contact lists. Residents have phones but either there is no coverage or they cannot afford data plans to access the internet. How can residents of such communities be offered free internet, while building double opt in contact lists?
WiFi hotspots to provide free internet access.
They are small, portable and quickly set up almost anywhere.
The hotspots work independently to build contact lists without any staffing.
They are affordable and currently cost $3/day.
How it works
Small portable hotspots are quickly deployed where people congregate and signs publicize the free WiFi hotspots. People text the number displayed or scan the QR Code to obtain the password needed to connect to the hotspot. A chatbot prompts them for their contact details and opt-in to be contacted and then texts them a password to the hotspot. Their double opt-in contact details are saved in a database and can be used to contact them later when they are away from the hotspot.
The hotspots currently cost $3/day which includes the hardware, cellular and chatbot service to build contact lists.
The cost of collecting contact details comes to 20 cents/user when 15 users register at a hotspot in a day.
Adapt business apps for voting rights
Businesses use free WiFi services to attract customers and collect details about them. The apps they use are tested and easily adapted for democratic values. DemLabs recommends using existing solutions where possible, rather than re-inventing the wheel. This free internet system uses business apps to cut costs and streamline deployments.
– Chatbots to collect contact details and provide passwords Twilio
– Database to maintain contact lists MySQL
– Create QR Codes for signs that connect users to the chatbot QR Code Generator
– HotSpot hardware Alcatel
– Web services Amazon AWS
Keep it simple
Many grassroots groups struggle with limited funds, technical skills and staffing. Solutions have to be simple, dependable and work without creating extra work. QR Codes make it for people to sign up. Chatbots streamline the process without requiring additional staffing. The chatbot handles user registration, providing password details and saving contact details in a database. Text ‘YES’ to 504-420-3120 or scan this code to try the user interface.
DeadCellZones.com – Check for cell phone coverage by address
Coverage map – Check for T-Mobile cell coverage in an area
Cash Cow StoryMap – Check to see how lack of internet access matches poverty level in an area
Mobile hotspots – Providing internet access in vans, buses and trains
Make hotspots convenient to find
The hotspots are about the size of a pack of cards, but can handle eight users at a time. They can run from a power outlet or their internal battery. Common use cases include:
Using them to collect contact details at rallies, waiting lines, farmer’s markets
Provide them to local stores and restaurants to provide free WiFi to their customers
Provide access to the homeless, outside sport fields and in parks
The double opt-in process helps ensure people are only contacted with their permission. It confirms twice that a person wants to join a contact list and maintains records of signups. Compliance Point provides helpful suggestions on texting programs:
Obtain consent. The consumer must affirmatively agree to receive promotional calls/texts by automated means.
Honor opt-outs. Provide instructions on how to opt-out and look for other phrases like “stop/quit/cancel”.
Keep records. If you receive a complaint, you want to be able to respond confidently and records help you do that. Keep consent opt-in forms with dates.
This Free WiFi Hotspots program uses two discrete steps to obtain double opt-in. Users first respond to a sign which offers free internet access. They are shown the terms of service by which they will get the service. Only after they accept are they provided the password to connect to that WiFi hotspot.
TakeAway: Fight voter suppression and build contact lists by offering free internet access to the “tired, poor and huddled masses yearning to be free …”.
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