Blackberries, Razors, and Droids, OMG! We spend so much time with them, but cell phones are still a mystery. How do our voices travel through the air? Why do our bills work the way they do? Who owns the air? 

An intrepid crew of NYC high school students from St. John’s Recreation Center in Crown Heights, Brooklyn worked with teaching artist Helki Frantzen and CUP to unscramble the signals. They interviewed engineers, lawyers, consumer advocates, and electrophysicists; and scoped out Consumer Reports test labs.

They created this documentary about the switches, wires, and policies that affect your cell phone service to help you get to know your airwaves a little better. The video has already been screened at national media conferences and is being used by such organizations as the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition and the Center for Media Justice. 

Watch the whole video below, or get your own copy of the video and educator’s guide here!

This project is also part of Dialed In: A Cell Phone Literacy Toolkit.

Resources & Links

News Literacy Project is a nationally recognized leader in media literacy resources and education.  

People’s Production House is a journalism training and production institute focused on producing stories that bring unheard voices to the fore.

New America Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute that invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States.

Citizen’s Guide to the Airwaves is a report by the New America Foundation that aims to educate the public about the tremendous value, government mismanagement, and impending giveaway of the nation’s airwaves.

VozMob is a platform for immigrant and/or low-wage workers in Los Angeles to create stories about their lives and communities directly from cell phones.

The Center for Media Justice provides training, resources, and support to grassroots community organizing groups to develop creative, effective, and participatory communications and media activism strategies that support the fight for racial justice, economic equity, and human rights.

MAG-Net is a local-to-local network of grassroots organizations working together to advance a shared agenda for media justice.

Instituto de Educacion Popular del Sur de California (IDEPSCA) organizes and educates immigrants concerned with solving problems in their own communities.

Funding Support

This project was made possible through the support of the Instructional Telecommunications Foundation; public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; the Bay and Paul Foundations; and the Adobe Foundation. 

Special Thanks

Howard Huang, Tim Wu, Lou Manuta, Chris Libertelli, Michele White, Christine Williams, David Samberg, Henry Bertoni, Sascha Meinrath, Gerard Catapano, RECYouth, Josh Breitbart, Dharma Dailey, Johanna Pajuelo, Tony Williams, Ernesha Watt, Chris Dierks, Molly Dierks, Sukjong Hong, Chris Shelley, Paula Winograd, Kathy Bach, Jessica McHugh, Sarah Burkhart, Caroline Sykora, Greta Byrum, Benjamin Lennett, The Prelinger Archive, Javelin.


  • CUP
  • Teaching Artist
  • Helki Frantzen
  • Project Lead
  • Valeria Mogilevich
  • Project Support
  • Christine Gaspar
  • Sam Holleran 
  • John Mangin 
  • Zach Postone 
  • St. Johns Recreation Center
  • Students
  • Jacqueline Attia 
  • Brianna Tyler 
  • Kelvin Lockett 
  • Leon Richards 
  • Lashwan Bourne
    • MTWTF
    • Road and infrastructure graphics
    • Yuliya Parshina
    • Road and infrastructure animation
    • Amy Feindess & Eulani Labay
    • Package design