The Challenge


How can we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation? read the brief


Toward a network commons: Building an Internet for and by the people

We are a broad, international coalition of network engineers, community change makers, researchers, architects, and thinkers that are building decentralized and autonomous communications infrastructure. We know that the Internet is deeply broken, and we are rebuilding, from the inside out. We mitigate the ills of interception and interference on the net by facilitating networks that are owned, operated, and governed by the people that use them. This international free networks coalition aims to be the next step toward bridging successful local initiatives into a wide federation with global impact.
For some time now, civil society groups across the planet have been gradually building locally-owned and -operated community networks as alternatives to the current status quo of for-profit ISPs, mass surveillance, internet kill switches and other threats to the Internet's freedom and neutrality.

We aim to build an international community focused on facilitating the interconnection of existing local physical networks, lowering the barrier to entry for new networks to emerge, and sustaining a global community of local interconnected networks.

By liberating portions of the Internet, we aim to create change amongst the whole, creating modalities by which commons-based network initiatives can percolate across or occupy incumbent infrastructures and dynamics of control. 

The first goal of the organization will be the implementation of a canonical license for free networks. This 'Network Commons License', co-created as a collaboration between networks across the globe and translated into a legally binding license, will codify the essential elements of commons networks and provides a framework for networks to interconnect with one another. 

The co-creation of the license will be used as a launching pad for a concerted effort to bring everyone working on free and decentralized networks together in a single global forum, through online and in-person conferences, workshops and exchange programs. This forum will be used to develop further technical, cultural and legal standards for interconnection of existing open networks and to facilitate the creation of new local networks.

Who's Involved?
Our team consists of representatives from the following free networks:
* Sudo Mesh, launching the People's Open Network in Oakland, CA
* Kansas City Freedom Network, in close alliance with the Free Network Foundation in Kansas City, MO.
* wlan-slovenija across Slovenia and connecting Austria and Croatia!
* Altermundi in Argentina
* in Catalonia
* Freifunk in Germany
* Ninux in Italy
* MedellinLibre in Medellin, Columbia
* Village Telco in South Africa
* Fédération FDN in France
* Réseau Libre in Montréal, QC, Canada
* Espinal-Free and Fusa-Giradot-Free in Columbia
...and many more to come! We intend to reach out to as many other free networks as possible and will add them to this list as we receive confirmation to do so.
In ONE sentence, tell us about your project to strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation.
This yet-to-be-named coalition unites representatives from community wireless networks and Internet freedom groups around the world to create venues for cross-cultural collaboration and legal defense in support of the humanitarian right to communicate free from interference.
Who will benefit from what you propose? What have you observed that makes you think that?
While the primary motivations behind free networks range widely - from providing basic access to the Internet for those without, to routing around censorship in repressive regimes, to creating entirely alternative communication channels - the underlying ethos lies in shared values of supporting the freedom to communicate unhindered and fostering local resilience. A network that is free for use and modification by all and yet hardened against interference, censorship and natural disasters benefits everyone, but most directly supports vital communicators such as journalists and activists. Perhaps more importantly, communities that have been left behind by for-profit ISPs deeming them a non-viable market benefit from connectivity via networks run without a profit motive. The opportunity to further collaborate between groups in developing a Network Commons License would enable the creation of a support network for launching and sustaining community mesh networks everywhere, through mutual aid and legal council.
What progress have you made so far?
Over the past decade, the free network movement has come together in the form of annual Community Wireless Network Summits for workshops and presentations as well as an annual Battlemesh event for testing routing protocols in friendly competition; out of these intensive yet extremely short-lived bouts of collaboration, dynamic routing protocols and software tools have been developed and adopted in networks around the world. Over the past decade, we have developed breakthrough technologies for computer networking, stewarded the emergence of large, unfettered networks co-owned by many thousands of stakeholders while various peering agreements have been created and widely adopted in the Guifi network in Catalonia as well as Latin America (Free Networks Manifesto). The recent Network Commons License is currently in its third draft, building off of several international summits involving deep collaboration between representatives of free/libre community wireless networks across the globe.
What would be a successful outcome for your idea or project?
Our aim is to ensure that all people, everywhere, have the ability to communicate freely, and access to the information that will help them flourish. To this end, our most pressing needs are two-fold: To build consensus around a network license that codifies the necessary and sufficient conditions for free networks, and to found an international organization dedicated to supporting and sustaining the exponential increase of community-owned telecommunications networks. We intend to gather as a coalition, refine existing license implementations, and release the first official version of the Network Commons License.
Who is on your team, and what are their relevant experiences or skills?
* Jenny Ryan (USA) co-founded Sudo Room (an activist hackerspace), Sudo Mesh and the People's Open Network in Oakland, CA. She has an MA in Anthropology and Communication with a focus on online sociality and digital literacy. Jenny is interested in and actively engaged with emerging movements rooted in the shared struggle to reclaim the commons, create public spheres through the cultivation of open spaces, and enable direct democracy through principles of federation and open source or Read/Write culture. Professionally, she works principally at the intersection of people and technology through her work with Open Garden, a startup developing mobile mesh networking technology. She has previously worked as a researcher with the Open Technology Institute, Howard Rheingold, and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society. * Julien Rabier (France) (aka taziden) is the co-founder of the non-profit organization Ilico, Internet Libre in Corrèze (a small rural region of France), which is a neutral, free, open and local Internet access provider. Julien is also one of the founding members and animators of Federation FDN, a federation of 25 local non-profit Internet access providers similar to Ilico scattered around France, and gathering more than 1,600 individual members. He speaks at tech conferences and festivals across Europe on the topic of the DIY ISP movement. * Marc Juul (USA) is a full time hacker with 10 years of experience in the realms of digital hardware, software and genetic engineering. He holds degrees in IT and biotech engineering and has co-founded hackerspaces and citizen science community labs on two continents: Sudo Room and Counter Culture Labs in Oakland, CA and Labitat and BiologiGaragen in Copenhagen, Denmark. He is also the co-founder and lead software developer of Sudo Mesh the organization running the People's Open Network in Oakland, CA. * Mitar Milutinovic (Slovenia) is a co-founder of the wlan slovenija open wireless network, building an open, common and free network in Slovenia by encouraging people to share their existing Internet connectivity with others. Mitar is a graduate student researcher at the Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences department at UC Berkeley, building interfaces for massive collaboration online. He worked on open source data mining toolkit Orange. His research interests include trust networks, group decision support systems, collaboration tools, wireless mesh/community networks, and organic/self-healing technologies. Currently he is creating a collaborative reading platform for academic publications, PeerLibrary. * Nicolás Echániz (Argentina) is the co-founder of, an Argentine NGO that fosters the rise of a new paradigm founded on freedom gained through peer collaboration. We explore different manifestations of these peer-to-peer alternatives, and in particular we do a great deal of work in relation to Wireless Community Networks. Nico Echániz has more than ten years of experience in this field. He is a co-developer of AlterMesh, a firmware targeted at small low-income towns that has already been adopted by numerous projects in Latin America and abroad. He organized the first Regional Free Networks Meeting (JRRL in spanish) in 2010 and was the main author of the Latin American Free Networks Manifesto, signed by network projects from numerous countries during the JRRL3 in Porto Alegre. In other areas he has taken part of numerous cooperative and community projects related to appropriate technology, permaculture, ecovillages, social economy, and other peer-to-peer experiences. * Jernej Kos (Slovenia) is a computer science researcher, software developer and network engineer with over nine years of experience. He has experience with scalable web application development, development of software for embedded devices, routing protocol internals and more. In 2005 he co-founded a software development and consultancy company specializing in the above fields and also freelances and consults on various interesting projects. He is also involved with open source projects, the most prominent being wlan slovenija, where he has developed a modular platform for network monitoring and provisioning. His current research interests include secure, privacy-aware decentralized services and their uses. * Luka Mustafa - Musti (Slovenia) is a masters MEng Electronic Engineering student at University College London (UCL) on gap-year working full-time on the open source wireless gigabit optical project KORUZA. He has been actively involved in the wlan slovenija community wireless network for the past four years and constructs, deploys and manages national and international wireless backbone links connecting Austria, Slovenia and Croatia. His focus area is the development of new and efficient systems by repurposing mass-produced components and equipment and contributing to several electronics projects worldwide. * Corinna "Elektra" Aichele (Germany). Elektra has been busy working on mesh networking protocols for the Freifunk community in Germany. Before inventing the B.A.T.M.A.N. routing protocol for wireless mesh networks in 2006, she was working on improving the OLSR routing protocol. She is one of the people behind the Mesh-Potato device, a rugged outdoor open-source, open-hardware WiFi router with an FXS port. She is also part of the Villagetelco community, that strives to deploy mesh networks for VOIP and data. Elektra is one of the authors of the book "Wireless networking in the developing world" * Pau Escrich Garcia (Catalonia) is a core member of, the biggest community network in the world. He is a computer engineer finishing his master degree in FLOSS, and a full time researcher at the Foundation. He is co-founder of and a main contributor to the quick Mesh project (qMp), an OpenWRT-based firmware for wireless routers aimed at reducing to a minimum the technical background needed to bootstrap community networks. He is interested in P2P systems, currently exploring the possibilities of the blockchain technology for managing resources shared in commons. * Roger Baig Viñas (Catalonia) holds a degree in Industrial Engineering and a MSc degree in Industrial Computing. Roger has a vast knowledge about community networks. He joined the community network in 2006. There he has actively contributed in many aspects such as organising community events, promoting projects, giving talks, writing articles, installing nodes, bootstrapping zones, etc . In 2011 he joined as a full-time researcher. He has travelled to many countries to explain the experience and learn from other community network initiatives. * Federico Capoano (Rome, Italy) is a web developer and community networker involved in and Battlemesh. Part of his mission is to contribute to nodeshot, a web application originally written for which is growing to be used by more communities ( He is passionate about web design and development, freedom of communication and human communication through electronic means. He actively promotes the activities of and battlemesh through interviews, endorsements and social media. * Steve Song (South Africa, Canada): is an advocate for cheaper, more pervasive access to communication infrastructure in Africa. He is the founder of Village Telco, a social enterprise that builds low-cost WiFi mesh VoIP technologies to deliver affordable voice and Internet service in underserviced areas. * Antoine Beaupré (Canada) is a co-founder of Réseau libre, a community-run decentralised mesh network in Montreal. Antoine has extensive knowledge in systems and network administration and also operates the network behind the internet non-profit service provider. Part of his mission is to provide community groups and NGOs with low-cost tools to empower their communities to communicate from the ground up and create a non-commercial, non-governmental space in the Internet. * Alessio Caiazza (Florence, Italy) (aka nolith) is a member of and co-founder of the Florence group. A software and network engineer, Alessio is very passionate about ICT, Free and open-source software (FOSS) and distributed systems. He is helping by contributing to the router firmware development, giving public talks, and helping with the hardware installations. * Fernando Giraldo (Medellin, Colombia) is a co-founder of A telecommunications engineer passionate about Free and open-source Software (FOSS) and information security, he promotes the use of free software and free networks in Columbia and has given many public talks contributing to the diffusion of these projects. He is helping to design a training in "correct use of Information and telecommunication technologies" oriented toward vulnerable communities such as those displaced by violence. * Isaac Wilder (Kansas City, MO, USA) is co-founder and Executive Director of the Free Network Foundation - a research and education consortium dedicated to realizing a global telecommunications commons. In addition to writing and speaking on issues of network freedom, he engineers, builds, and deploys tools for more democratic networks. Since co-founding the FNF in 2011, Isaac has led numerous efforts to build and maintain communications infrastructure in times of crisis and in areas of need. Working with a broad coalition of public, private, and people sector partners, the FNF has pioneered a burgeoning metro network in Kansas City. * Wilson Daniel Gordillo Ochoa (Espinal, Colombia) Cofounder of Espinal-Free, Libre and Fusa-Girardot-Free, all groups of Free Networks gestated in the Colombian province University Teacher for over 20 years, Systems Engineer, Specialist in Telecommunications Networks and a Masters in Education. Speaker and motivator in his region.
* Oakland, CA, USA * Kansas City, MO, USA * Ljubljana, Slovenia * Berlin, Germany * Rome, Italy * Montreal, QC, Canada * José de la Quintana, Argentina * Barcelona, Catalonia * Florence, Italy * Medellín, Colombia * Espinal, Colombia * South Africa


Join the conversation and post a comment.

Praveen Sinha

April 18, 2014, 03:31AM
I think it's really important to highlight that low cost/open wifi is a human rights issue and that connectivity for the poor, working poor, and immigrant communities remain a huge open challenge. Muni wifi has pretty much completely failed in the united states, and having realistic community orientate solutions can plug a huge gaping whole in lots of peoples lives...

Max Ogden

April 17, 2014, 20:39PM
This is a really important issue, and the team they have looks well suited to spearhead it. Every month that I pay Verizon for crappy internet reminds me of how much I would rather be supporting something like this.

Carlo von lynX

April 10, 2014, 17:57PM
Looks like a lot of things have started to move in the past few months. Glad to see our friend Elektra, who ran a panel at the #youbroketheinternet 30c3 workshops, in your list. Fun also to see the grumpycat spreading the word of a GNU Internet that we shall build.

#youbroketheinternet is focusing more on the software layers for owning our own Internet again, no matter who owns the hardware underneath. So it looks like we're working at the same plan, looking at it from different angles.

You will love the GNUnet Mesh presentation once the video is out. It took Elektra a while to wrap her head around it… and she sure knows something about mesh networking!

You may also like the secushare project that we are also pitching on this platform. After all you will want a mail system and Faceboogle replacement on your new networks to fully enjoy them.

There's plenty of work to be done for us all, let's team up.

Jared Hardy

April 02, 2014, 18:50PM
Hi Jenny,

    Data Roads Foundation ( has a very similar purpose, just very different development methods. We are trying to build and encourage more "free as in freedom" mesh networks everywhere (even in well-to-do communities), not just "free as in beer".

    We are encouraging everyone to build their own neighborhood meshes in their own communities, using 501c12 nonprofit utility cooperatives, or similar forms of legal nonprofit incorporation. Each local cooperative will depend on membership fees from its subscriber-owners to sustain itself, and Data Roads Foundation will help out by translating tax-deductible donations into subsidized memberships for poor families who can't afford Internet service today. We will also subsidize mesh network equipment for these poor families, so they can still make their adjacent mesh connections stronger and faster for all their neighbors. We will encourage wired meshes whenever possible, in order to distribute renewable and emergency power over the same wires as data. Cross-community peering agreements will arise naturally in a later phase of development.
    Any back-end services we provide will be sold by partners exclusively on a GOGO (Give One Get One) basis, so that every lucky rich person who buys a service will also be donating the same service to a family in need. One example of such a service is Unwatch.Me, a privacy cloud of randomized VPN exit-nodes, caches, and session aggregators -- it's sort of a cross between Tor, I2P, web caching proxies, and multipath bandwidth aggregation.

    Anyway, we should definitely talk. I'm also going to second the prior comment about contacting Christopher Mitchell at -- he's an excellent reference about municipal broadband access barriers in general, and new legislative challenges in particular. His blog is a must-read for anyone interested in community broadband.

Thanks and good luck!

Pau Llop

March 28, 2014, 15:52PM
Best project in this NewsChallenge contest. Impressive team. I hope you get funds to work on this.

Jenny Ryan

March 30, 2014, 21:56PM
Thanks Pau! The networks involved make up an incredibly passionate, talented, and inspiring international community, one which I'm truly honored to participate in. Your support is very much appreciated :)

Jenny Ryan

March 29, 2014, 22:08PM
Hi Jen!

Your project sounds really wonderful, but I'm a bit stymied about the feasibility of the Wi-Fi Beacon. Could you tell me a bit more about the technology behind the beacon, and how you propose to bring connectivity to remote villages in Africa?

Then again, perhaps this is why you're proposing we work together ;) Let's talk! I'm

I also cannot recommend this resource highly enough - it's a collaboratively-written manual called "Wireless Networking in the Developing World" with great case studies from wireless mesh deployments around the world:

Here's a digital source copy forked by one of the Sudo Mesh crew:


Michael Aufreiter

March 27, 2014, 10:04AM
I totally agree.

- Everyone should own a personal space for expression on the web
- Those spaces must be provided by locally owned/operated networks
- It must become easy to spin up a new personal network
- People need a way to self-publish their ideas without technical knowledge

With our open source project, Substance ( we want to contribute to that idea too. We're addressing these needs by developing an open framework for creation and manipulation of digital content. It's all browser-technology-based and thus works in decentralized scenarios. We will also provide a simple editor program, allowing anyone to create and self-host professional web-publications. See:

I'm particularly interested in implementing the idea of decentralized self-publishing. Here's more on that:

We'd love to be part of this forum and help make this idea happen. I'd also like to invite you to have a look at our proposal, give feedback, and share the link if you like it:

Jenny Ryan

March 29, 2014, 21:58PM
Hey Michael!

I'm taking a look at Substance and really digging it! This would be a rad application to run on mesh networks :) I'm going to list it in the 'Mesh Apps' section of our wiki @

One of the core crew on the Sudo Mesh team is working on a 'free store' - essentially an app store for Creative Commons-licensed content: It's still very nascent, but I see a toolchain emerging for publishing and sharing content in a manner that's truly free, open and decentralized.

Many thanks for the good work you're doing! I'll add this comment to your proposal as well.


Michael Aufreiter

March 31, 2014, 10:55AM
Hey Jenny!

That'd be awesome. :)

As for a free store for distributing CC-content: That's an interesting, also challenging, use-case. Our Network proposal covers that only partly. However.. in a truly decentralized world do we really need a classic online store anymore?

Of course the challenge remains making content accessible in a fair way. Technically speaking what is needed is a distributed index to find relevant pieces of content. In addition to those unmoderated hubs I do see the value of curated aggregated content... However, instead of just a handful commercial publishers and book stores... we could have many many smaller-sized open journals that do no longer host and sell content, but curate collections of articles for a particular topic etc. They would also accept submissions from anyone and if accepted, review them (open copy-editing!). I think it's also okay to charge for such services (free as in freedom.. not as in beer ;)). I figure it that way: One publishes a document on their own (or trusted webspace) and then submits its link to various open journals for distribution. Just some early unverified thoughts on that broad topic. ...

Whenever you guys have something to share/discuss, please message me at: michael ät substance döt io.

Also, would it be okay if I referenced your proposal as a use-case in our KKC-Entry?

Again,... great work! :)

-- Michael

Jo Ellen Kaiser

March 24, 2014, 19:30PM
Are you or would you consider working with the Institute for Self-Reliance, which does a lot of work with community broadband networks?

Jenny Ryan

March 26, 2014, 05:19AM
I am reading their About page [] and falling in love. Can you connect me to anyone there?

Jo Ellen Kaiser

March 26, 2014, 10:00AM
Sure, I know Chris Mitchell. DM me at @jgksf and we can get on email

Jenny Ryan

March 30, 2014, 22:26PM
Hi Jo! I @messaged you as we're not following each other. Maybe an email intro? I'm jenny at sudomesh dot org :)

Matt Senate

March 20, 2014, 19:32PM
Coming off of the Free Network Foundation Summit last week in Austin, Texas, I was profoundly moved. We shared our experiences and perspectives in earnest, and together accomplished a lot, setting in motion another strong, discernible signal in a concert of global ripples:

We assume our freedoms to be self-evident. Our strength to preserve these freedoms lies in our diversity and in our bonds, the interconnections.

We sent a ping to the other nodes. We asked everyone to challenge and improve our notions of free networks, to share tactics to create network freedom for people everywhere, and to continue the critical effort to build practical tools for existing networks to grow and new ones to blossom.

Jenny Ryan and the other listed applicants demonstrate the coordination and perseverance of their respective communities.

The iron is hot.
Login to News Challenge