Guifi Net

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= attempt to create an alternative autonomous internet infrastructure, mostly based in the Catalan region of Spain

URL = http://guifi.net

"a bottom-up, citizen-driven technological, social and economic project with the objective of creating a free, open and neutral telecommunications network based on a commons governance model"

Description

DiDIY:

"guifi·net is a bottom-up, citizen-driven technological, social and economic project with the objective of creating a free, open and neutral telecommunications network based on a commons governance model. The development of this common-pool infrastructure eases the access to quality, fair-priced telecommunications in general and broadband Internet connections in particular, for everybody. Moreover, it generates a model for collaborative economic activity based on proximity and sustainability. In its core all participating members contribute a piece of infrastructure (antenna, node, supernode, piece of fibre optics, router, etc) to the commons, allow the «right of passage» over that infrastructure, thereby organically building their network.

The network started in 2004 and is especially mature in Catalonia, with over 30.000 buildings connected, some through WiFi or radio links others through fibre optic wires (Fibre To The Home) deployed by the neighbours and local users. Since 2008 guifi·net is, through the guifi·net Foundation, a telecommunications operator registered at the Telecommunications Operators Register run by the Spanish National Market and Competence Comission, participates as an AS (Autonomous System) in the Internet and exchanges traffic at up to 30 Gbps in CATNIX, the Internet Exchange Point (IX) of Catalonia."

Characteristics

DiDIY:

"The guifi·net is defined as a free, open and neutral network (FONN).

Namely:

• open, to ensure that everybody can connect and be part of the it, without discrimination • free, because the network is a common-pool resource, and nobody can take it over exclusively • neutral, regarding the contents and the technology


Community

The community consists of local groups, that meet periodically and organise so called “guifi labs”, where they help each other and collectively make sure the infrastructure they share works properly. They have a range of online services available to facilitate the community, from mailing lists, forums and blogs to custom made mapping tools where people can register all necessary information about the infrastructure that they contribute to the community network. "

(http://www.didiy.eu/public/deliverables/didiy-d6.3-1.0-pub.pdf)


Licensing

Guifi.net has developed its own community network license: the Free, Open & Neutral Network (FONN Compact) License. It is inspired in the free and open networks principles.

In summary:

  • you have the freedom to use the network for any purpose as long as you don't harm the operation of the network itself, the rights of other users, or the principles of neutrality that allow contents and services to flow without deliberate interference;
  • you have the right to understand the network and its components, and to share knowledge of its mechanisms and principles;
  • you have the right to offer services and content to the network on your own terms;
  • you have the right to join the network, and the obligation to extend this set of rights to anyone according to these same terms.

This license incorporates the lessons learnt from observing many commons governance models from Elinor Ostrom’s Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework.

The contents of their website are under CC BY-NC-SA. The software used is all under free licenses. The hardware used in the network ranges from proprietary of the shelf routers to open source hardware machines, all documented by the community." (http://www.didiy.eu/public/deliverables/didiy-d6.3-1.0-pub.pdf)

Business model

DiDIY:

"Revenue models:

• Donations of two kinds: 1) donations to the foundation, as “friend” or “mecenas”; 2) sponsoring the set up of a local node. • Services from network operators providing guaranteed services on top of the community infrastructure. • Cost Compensation between the operators: operators who invest less in the maintenance of the network than they profit from, by selling services to its endusers, will need to compensate the other operators by the year’s end (through the Foundation). • Cost sharing of a local subnet and its connection to the CATNIX exchange in Barcelona and traffic pooling for connecting to the global Internet.


Modes of production:

The core infrastructure is mostly peer produced by citizens with a Digital DIY mindset and partly produced through a self regulated internal market through the operators." (http://www.didiy.eu/public/deliverables/didiy-d6.3-1.0-pub.pdf)


Governance models

DiDIY:

• The network is governed in a decentralised fashion, by the local groups, abiding by the guifi.net license. • The license foresees a role for the guifi.net foundation for conflict resolution and for overseeing the cost compensation between commercial operators in their network."

(http://www.didiy.eu/public/deliverables/didiy-d6.3-1.0-pub.pdf)


Status

DiDIY:

Indicators of impact

• European Commission awards guifi.net the first European Broadband Award32 in the category on innovative model of financing, business and investment (2015). • At the time of writing there are 32.789 working nodes, 35.883 links, 58.946,6 total kilometers of links, 93 last week new nodes and 43 working nodes last week.

On top of the common infrastructure members run community services such as a multimedia platform and online TV distribution network; the statistics include:

• Total Internet Gateways: 7 direct gateways and 312 proxies; • VoiceIP Servers: 13; • FTP or shared disk servers: 31; • Instant Message servers: 4 jabbers and 6 irc servers; • Videoconference servers: 5; • Web servers: 53; • Broadcast radios (music): 14; • Mail servers: 4."

(http://www.didiy.eu/public/deliverables/didiy-d6.3-1.0-pub.pdf)


Interview

Roger Baig Viñas:

1) how is Guifi related to the internet: is it complementary or alternative, and if the latter, why do we need it?

guifi.net can be seen as both things at the same time. On one hand it can be considered as a complement to the Internet because guifi.net network can be used to extend the "network of networks" coverage, and on the other hand it is an alternative to it: guifi.net users don't need to connect to the Internet, i. e. to use an ISP, any more for their digital communications among them, therefore, the so common and artificial picture of to neighbors connecting both of them to their ISP to exchange a file will not take place again among them.

Ramon Roca adds:

Guifi "is absolutely complementary. Actually we do see as an extension of it up to the end user by enabling a self-service access. Regarding to the commercial ISP, wants to become an alternative, although because of how is currently regulated, there might be a neet to setup gateways to the internet. We do need it if we want the internet to reach the end users but without the need of having to do through a commercial ISP as an alternative."


2) what is the status of Guifi.net, and where would you like to be in 2-3 years

To date, November 2008, guifi.net has about 5500 working nodes, most of them linked each other. Geographically the main activity is centered in Catalonia, escencially because the project was born there, but everyone is encouraged to expand the network coverage contributing with his link.

Inside Catalonia the coverage is not homogeneous: while in Osona, the rural area where it, was born more than the 90% is already covered there are other rural areas where the activity is just starting and in the main cities it is very low.

A gratifying picture within two or three years time would be to have extended Osona's degree and density of coverage around Catalonia and to have been able to cross its borderlines, both, by setting links across them and by exporting the guifi.net's platform to other regions of the world."


3) are you part of an international movement, and how are you related to other techno-social movements such as the free software movement, the wireless commons movement, etc...

Yes, although I miss a stronger international organization to lead the movement, we try to participate in all existing ones, like WSFII, Freenetworks, etc. Within the international wireless communities movements we are quit well known. All our code is freely distributed under the GPL license and we reuse others' free software


Discussion

Penny Travlou:

"On my recent visit to Barcelona in the context of the Confine project, Guifi.net founder Ramon Roca took me to Gurb, the village he comes from. There, in 2003 Guifi.net was started when Ramon realized that he would never get good bandwidth at a fair price in this remote area in sight of the foothills of the Pyrenees. Ramon, who is an IT professional but keeps his working life and activities with Guifi.net separated, found that he could get broadband by using WiFi to connect to a public building in the outskirts of a nearby small town, Vic. Since then, Guifi.net has grown to become the largest Wifi community network in Europe, with currently more than 25.000 nodes. It is not entirely correct anymore to call it a wireless community network since a growing number of nodes is created by fiber-optic cable. Since Ramon and his collaborators have found out how relatively easy it is to work with fiber he is on a new mission, to get fiber to the curb to as many houses as possible.

Visiting Gurb and talking to Ramon for nearly a full day has revitalized my fascination for wireless (and wired) community networks. I have written a book on wireless community networks in 2003, in German, under the title Freie Netze (Free Networks). The choice of title back then had deliberately emphasised the analogy between Free Networks and Free Software. The title had been inspired by two very different influences. On one hand there had been Volker Grassmuck's early book Freie Software (http://freie-software.bpb.de/Grassmuck.pdf). Volker's magisterial work provided deep insight into the history and politics of Free Software and stood out for me as an example how a book on wirelesss community networks should be written. The other inspiration had been provided by a sweeping lecture in Vienna in June 2003 by Eben Moglen, lawyer of the Free Software foundation and legal brain behind the licensing model of Free Software, the General Public Licence (GPL). Moglen's thunderous and captivating speech had presented the combination of Free Software, Free Hardware and Free Networks like a kind of holy trinity of the everything-free-and-open movement. Moglen's conclusion was that while Free Software was already an accomplished fact, and free hardware was the hardest bit, free networks were a viable possibility, yet there was still a long way to go to attain critical mass.

My book had come maybe a few years too early. When it appeared, some of the most important wireless community networks of today, such as Freifunk, Berlin, Funkfeuer, Austria, or Guif.net, were either inexistent or existed still in embryonic form only. The model of wireless community networks on which my book had been based had been created by Consume.net in the UK. Consume.net was the outcome of an improvised workshop in December 1999 in Clink Street, near London's creative net art hub Backspace. I will describe the history of Consume in more detail below, but one key aspect of that initiative was that it was launched by non-techies. James Stevens, founder of Backspace, and Julian Priest, artist-designer-entrepreneur, provided the impetus for DIY wireless networking by sketching plans for a “model 1” of WLAN based community networking on a napkin during a tempestuous train journey in late summer 1999. Their “Model 1” - a name chosen for its association with Henry Ford's first mass produced car, the Ford Model 1 or Thin Lizzy – was a techno-social network utopia." (http://www.thenextlayer.org/node/1231)