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.

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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


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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...

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