Network Liberation: How Freifunk Communities are Spreading around the World

Politics & Society
Wednesday, May 7, 2014 - 15:00 to 15:30
stage C
Intermediate
English
Talk

Short thesis: 

While the public is often aware of local freifunk community network projects to offer Internet and and local network services, it is mostly unknown, that community networks today exist in nearly every country in the world. From schools in Afghanistan, remote villages in Zambia, uncensored local networks in Iran, huge community run networks proving Internet in Spain, city networks in Italy and networks even free international phone calls in Mexico, more and more people take the Internet in their own hands.

Description: 

This talk will offer insights from project around the world - school networks in Afghanistan, remote village projects in Zambia, uncensored local networks in Iran, huge community run networks providing Internet in Spain, city networks in Italy and communities that even make free international phone calls possible in Mexico.

In 2003 Wifi network builders from a few German cities united under the label freifunk. The movement of community networks starting in backyards has spread from roof to roof around the world. Community networks are decentralized and self-governed Intranets, that connect participants freely and anonymously. 

Members of a community network can share Internet connections, connect to services like local media libraries or even telephone with each other. Everyone with a wifi router can join and put up his/her router in the window or on the roof. Simple instructions to reflash many models with customized firmwares for devices are developed by local communities. 

Dedicated freifunk network activists engage already for years to spread knowledge by providing access to digital libraries and local copies of Wikipedia at places with low Internet access in the most difficult environments as school projects in Jallalabad, Afghanistan show.

Communities today are using a range of technologies. Apart from wifi and cable, enthusiasts are setting up gsm, and VoIP services. Community networks are set up to help people in remote villateges to communicate with each other with standard phones, not just a nice dream, but reality in remote regions in Mexico.

As the traffic within a community network is not encrypted, it is theoretically possible to access information between devices. With the large number of access points and many different local networks though, it becomes a costly and difficult process compared to accessing a central hub of a big commercial service provider. In times of permanent NSA supervision it is an increasing additional motivation for people to join independent community networks.

More and more also begin to hack and build their own hardware, that suits their specific purpose. The interest and motivation of members ranges widely and brings a diverse group of people together sharing experience, knowledge and developing new ideas. After the idea of building "your own Internet" is out for years, communities actually doing it are expanding as many are joining this global movement.

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