Wireless Commons

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Wireless Commons or Wireless Community Movement = A worldwide movement to create a bottom-up and wireless broadband infrastructure, accessible by all citizens

It is also a specific initiative which has developed a useful definition of a Community Wireless Network, and the characteristics that it should have.

See also the entries on the Community Wireless and Personal Telco Movement

The Political Importance of creating a public wireless network

The Wireless Community movement's soccer field metaphor [1]

Why is merely providing broadband wireless access to all a highly charged political act? This is well explained in the following blog entry by one of the leaders of the Montreal "Ile Sans Fil" project, who explains how they are `hacking the city'.

"We are hacking the built city. This statement is based on the idea that as wireless devices and services proliferate and ubiquitous computing becomes a reality, the physical environment (especially the built city) is rapidly becoming enhanced space or mixed-reality. The supposedly seperate existences of off-line and on-line are intersecting and overlapping - most rapidly in cities.

That's obvious and basic knowledge to most of you.

Where this get's exciting is that by citizens, artists and non-profit groups developing and adapting these technologies (portable devices, wireless connectivity, mobile- and location-based applications) and their model (who is supposed to use them and for what purpose) we are able to impact and change this enhanced space and through that have an actual impact on how the built city is experienced. To be sure, we have constraints on how much we can hack the city - it's not as if we can easily directly confront the power of the the police or building developpers. But we can work to allow spaces to better retain memories, to promote both stronger and a larger number of looser associations between individual, to increase valuing of art and artists, or to help people get laid (more) on the basis of shared interests as well as looks.

Another way of describing this: I'm most excited about is the idea that ISF is building soccer fields. This is my new favorite way of explaining a major thing that I think is important about ISF. At the conference, one of the organizers told us this great story of a non-profit that wanted to help a local community of new immigrants from South or Central America that was having lots of problems. Their kids were having difficulties at school, there was lots of spousal abuse, violence in the neighborhood, etc. Instead of starting a program to attack this or that issue (after-school programs, men support groups, increased police presence) the foundation spent $100,000 to build a soccer field in the area. And the problems were significantly reduced over the following two years.

Why? Because people from the community got together to play soccer and after and before the games started talking to each other about their problems. They realized that their problems were shared problems, systematic problems, and they became able to access each other as resources. The soccer field provided them the ability to increase the strong and lose ties in their community and they were able to self-organize to procure the resources they needed to improve life in their community.

I felt weird calling myself an activist at this conference while sitting beside people who were working on human-rights in the Philippines or on improving democratic voter-turnout in the southern states of the US. When presenting ISF during speedgeek I was worried about people's perception of ISF (and of me) as legitimately "activist". During sessions on brainstorming they were all thinking of ways to use SMS messages for this voter-turn out campaign or to get news past that repressive government. I was preoccupied with wondering where the social software was for mobile phones (yes, besides Dodgeball) and why *every* project used a one-to-many push or a many-to-one pull conception (as opposed to groups within groups, individuals as network-bridgers, etc). I loved hearing the example of the soccerfield and having the idea legitimized of providing platforms that were not explicitly geared towards this or that agenda but that strengthened community by such things as increasing the abilities of individuals and groups and lowering the barriers they face towards community-oriented activities and organizing as well as minimizing the completely unlevel playing field that we are on with for-profit (and resultingly resource-rich) entities in terms of controlling our communities. (that was an ugly sentence - sorry)." [2]


See initiatives like Green WiFi, Neighbornode, and FON

Cities like Philadelphia are developing free wireless broadband systems for their citizens, see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A54754-2004Sep1.html?

Wireless Commons in Hawaii

Here’s a description of what is happening in Hawaii, where a peer to peer wireless network is covering more than 300 square miles:

"Now people all over the island are tapping into Wiecking's wireless links, surfing the Web at speeds as much as 100 times greater than standard modems permit. High school teachers use the network to leapfrog a plodding state effort to wire schools. Wildlife regulators use it to track poachers. And it's all free. Wiecking has built his network through a coalition of educators, researchers, and nonprofit organizations; with the right equipment and passwords, anyone who wants to tap in can do so, at no charge. (http://www.business2.com/articles/mag/0,1640,38492,00.html)

More Information

  1. Essay: Wireless Networks as Techno-social Models. By Armin Medosch.
  2. The Wireless Commons Movement has a Manifesto.
  3. “Wireless Networking in the Developing World”, at http://wndw.net/
  4. The Open Spectrum FAQ, at http://www.greaterdemocracy.org/OpenSpectrumFAQ.html
  5. Community Wireless
  6. Global Freifunk monitors news from free wireless communities around the world



“On Nodeb.com, people list their open nodes, essentially inviting strangers to join a worldwide community of users. This site has more than 11,000 registered access points in the United States. Even if service providers can make it more difficult for users to share Internet access, techies will eventually find a way around them." (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/19/opinion/19CONL.html?th )

An article about the advances of the "Personal Telco" movement in the U.S., at http://www.csmonitor.com/2005/0615/p01s03-ussc.html ; home page at http://www.personaltelco.net/static/index.html

See also Neighbornode, Green WiFi and FON

Metrix specialises in selling hardware suitable for use with community networks and open source software.

Open Source Software for a Community Wireless Network

CUWiN (Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network) in the USA, Freifunk in Germany and Île Sans Fil in Canada are working to develop useful software and tackle the broader political issues involved in community networking.

Legal Documents

Pico Peering Agreement v1.0 (and the Free Networks v1.1), at http://www.picopeer.net/ and http://wiki.personaltelco.net/index.cgi/FreenetworksPeeringAgreement

The Wireless Commons License, at http://guifi.net/WCL_EN

NYCwireless' Acceptable Use Policy at http://wiki.personaltelco.net/index.cgi/AcceptableUsePolicy

Municipal and local wireless networks

- Muniwireless.com – best site for news on developments in unlicensed wireless at the municipal level worldwide.

- Reports by Business Week, on wireless and WiFi developments: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/04_40/b3902057_mz011.htm http://www.businessweek.com/technology/tc_special/03wireless2.htm, http://www.businessweek.com/technology/tc_special/tc_04wifi.htm

Local Initiatives

Freifunk's List of Worldwide Wireless Communities, at http://global.freifunk.net/free_global_wireless_community

Personal Telco's List of Worldwide of Wireless Communities, at http://wiki.personaltelco.net/index.cgi/WirelessCommunities

Local list:

Wire.less.dk http://wire.less.dk

Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network (CUWiN) http://www.cuwireless.net/

NYCWireless http://www.nycwireless.net

Freifunk http://freifunk.net

Melbourne Wireless http://melbourne.wireless.org.au

IleSansFil http://www.ilesansfil.org

Toronto Wireless http://www.torwug.org

Key Books to Read

The Wireless Commons reading list:

Additional Reading

  • “Radio Revolution: The Coming Age of Unlicensed Wireless" by Kevin Werbach, published by the New America Foundation [3]
  • Building Wireless Community Networks. 2001. by Rob Flickenger. O’Reilly.
  • Wired/Unwired: The Urban Geography of Digital Networks. 2003. by Anthony Townsend. Unpublished PhD dissertation. [4]

(http://www.wirelesscommons.org/ )

See Also