Proposals/tasks in Open Call 2 are grouped in three categories:
Itinerarium, a SME focused on location-based technologies for educational communities, and IGOPnet, the area of Internet, politics and commons of the Institute of government and public policies (IGOP) of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), want to participate in the second CONFINE open call with their project: Citizen Square Kilometre (Citizensqkm).
Citizensqkm is an educational Social Augmented Reality experience and an experimentally-driven research on community-owned open local IP networks (the Community-Lab) located in El Raval district in Barcelona. Its main aim is to benefit the neighbourhood by engaging a community network, made up of students, local administrations and local entities, in the development of their own community using geolocation technologies, based on a commons based computer network (guifi.net) which will be set in the area.
The local community network will actively participate through pedagogical and ludic (play) experiences, (initially promoted by the project researchers) in the discovery and improvement of El Raval by collecting and classifying data related to it, creating geolocated layers of relevant information, itineraries and treasure hunts.
The square kilometre that surrounds us in the place where we live, is an excellent learning environment and it contains all ingredients a local community network may need. Participants will conduct a census of the land, its inhabitants, its infrastructures, its services, its history and its nature and they will also take full advantage of open data coming from public administrations and sensors. This process of ‘civic reappropriation of data’ will engage citizens and local administrations in the development of their own community.
Experiments will draw on both, Itinerarium’s project learning educational methodologies and the Ethnographic Action Research (EAR) methodology, designed for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) initiatives, that combines research with project development, in a multi-disciplinary study conducted by IGOPnet.
The pilot will be implemented in Barcelona, where access to the internet (and especially to download or upload media files) is not always available in open spaces. Citizensqkm will deploy the first node of a commons based computer network inside the building of the Institute and will connect it to guifi.net, which will also provide the hardware components and the know-how for new nodes to be deployed around El Raval. Local entities and citizens in El Raval will be encouraged to use it, also from the street, and understand the wireless commons philosophy and to expand the commons based computer network using the already deployed nodes. A common infrastructure where users share not only technological network but also knowledge.
This experiment will have a technological platform with a web page, a mobile application (iOS and Android connected to guifi.net nodes), a work in progress blog, a user directory and a file sharing area. Participants will be able to create and access data produced by themselves, collected by sensors, or published by public institutions (open data) at the online platform and via mobile applications, from the Institute, their own homes, or a mobile device. The blog, the user directory and the file sharing area will enable social interaction between users, public exposure for the projects and a place to share common resources to strengthen the network community links.
Citizensqkm uses service and project learning as incentive models, with Itinerarium methodology, to encourage users to participate in the community network and at the same time Citizensqkm becomes a platform at the service of the community network and at the service of the EAR research.
Itinerarium methodology integrates key elements of EAR methodology, for the initiative to be able to be adjusted periodically recognising and responding to local social, political, cultural and economic contexts and to help researchers share, store, manage and analyse data. Researchers will engage the participants, to include their ways of making sense of the world and themselves in their evaluations of projects, following the motto: Adopt, Adapt, Create and Share.”
Contextual factors such as regulatory, social, and market conditions have as much or greater impact as technological factors on the sustainability of community wireless networks, yet they are rarely studied. The proposed research takes an unprecedented comparative, comprehensive look at these factors by analyzing their impact across the three CONFINE Community-Lab testbeds. This work will take place in four phases: geospatial analysis; regulatory and market analysis; case studies that document the factors leading to the establishment of the Community-Lab testbeds; and a rubric of community anchor institutions and the roles they play in successful community networks.
Based on our prior research on emerging networks in US cities, we hypothesize that community “anchor institutions” are crucial to the robustness of successful, sustainable networks. They are local resource brokers, contributing bandwidth and build-environment physical assets to networks – yet they also play a vital social role by engaging local stakeholders and legitimizing the activities of network organizers in the eyes of the community and of policymakers and other institutions. Thus we plan to perform interviews with CONFINE principals and with representatives at key community anchor institutions in order to understand how these institutions function as drivers of economic, social, and technical sustainability for community networks. Yet the actions of community anchors and of testbed organizers also take place in wider political, social, and market frameworks. Our analysis of regulatory and market conditions, based on existing policy documents and network performance data, will control for these factors across the three CONFINE testbeds. We will use data from Measurement-Lab, a free and open repository of network performance data, to compare community network performance with that of other available services in each testbed city.
Our geospatial analysis will also contextualize the work and sustainability of the CONFINE testbeds by identifying geographically locating community anchors and other features within the networks and their host cities. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) maps can also make further socioeconomic and market analyses possible by creating base layers that can be used by other researchers to perform diagnostic mapping with additional geospatial data (such as, for example, census or other socioeconomic data).
Thus the proposed analysis will contextualize the CONFINE testbeds geographically, institutionally, and in their social, market, and regulatory environments; within these contexts, it will analyze the roles and actions of key players in establishing sustainable social, economic, and technological systems. The resulting maps, policy recommendations, and best practices models will increase awareness of the CONFINE testbeds; contribute to more policies more conducive to community networks; increase participation by community anchors and their constituencies; and lower barriers to entry for new community networks.
Overall, our documentation of the factors that created CONFINE testbed networks at scale and with built-in sustainability will be a vital resource for fostering similarly scalable and sustainable future networks. In addition, it can become the groundwork for more favorable regulatory environments. Finally, we anticipate that documentation of these networks will reveal their local economic and social support functions in such a way that urban planners and designers, as well as policymakers and local enthusiasts, can understand and contribute to the establishment of communications infrastructure as a commons and vital shared resource.
Although the connectivity gap in remote and under served areas is increasingly being reduced by mobile phone operators, access remains low due to services being unaffordable to the low income population living there. Community networks have been proposed as a solution for this problem due to the additional developmental benefits they can bring. However, very few real examples exist and very little is known of their socio-economic impact apart from anecdotal results.
In order to close this gap, a research effort from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) started in April 2012 in a remote community in the Eastern Cape Province in South Africa. After conversations with local authorities, training and support was provided for the installation of a solar-powered wireless mesh network connecting 10 private houses spread throughout the community and providing wireless coverage and voice services to almost 30km2 . Although initially this service was supposed to suffice, its uptake has been low due to the inability to call outside the mesh to mobile phones. Since June 2013 a plan has been in place to provide this service from January 2014.
The main goal of the research presented here is to examine the socio-economic impact of connecting this community-owned and run mesh network to the Internet. This will enable break-out calls and other services during the period of the funding. The research will be conducted jointly by the Computer Science Department, which started the project in 2012, and the Institute for Social Development, which broad experience on the topic, both based at UWC.
A mixed methods approach will capture quantitative and qualitative data about the impacts of this initiative. A panel study of a stratified random sample of community members will measure changes in the expenditure and patterns of usage in communications. In addition to this, the Most Significance Change technique will be used to capture unexpected impacts of the project. In parallel, the effect of this initiative in the agency and aspirations of community members will be studied. Finally, the business model of the community network, based in a non-for-profit cooperative, will be described and analysed in detail.
This initiative has already captured the attention of other researchers, practitioners, media, and the public and private sectors based only on the preliminary results presented herein. With the possibility of carrying out an in-depth study of its socio-economic impact and sustainable business model, more awareness about the potential of community wireless networks will be raised and replications of the model can be expected. Therefore, we believe that our inclusion in the CONFINE consortium will widen its scope of analysis of community networks both geographically, concerning experiences suitable to other rural areas in developing countries, and thematically, with regards to the socio-economic impact of community networks in these regions; topics that are currently overlooked by the consortium. On the other hand, apart from obtaining the funds to gain further insight into the impact of our approach, the wider experience from the current members of the consortium will also uncover topics that we may have overlooked, thus making our participation in the consortium mutually beneficial.
The CONFLATE project proposes to extend Community-Lab in two dimensions: infrastructural and functional. The infrastructural extension is the deployment of new Research Devices within the Ninux.org network of Rome (and surroundings), which is the largest community network in Italy. The functional extension is the deployment of an OpenFlow eXperimental facility (OFX) within Community-Lab, which allows users/researchers to carry out Software Defined Networking (SDN) experiments based on the OpenFlow standard. With the OFX extension, Community-Lab will be the first wireless testbed which will enable OpenFlow experiments within a large scale production network. OFX makes possible focused experiments on all OpenFlow key aspects: the switch, the controller, and the controller applications (i.e. switching rules). A researcher can deploy and test off-the-shelf or novel OpenFlow switches, controllers and controller applications. And to simplify the realization of focused experiments, the researcher disposes of a pre-installed OFX-toolkit formed by: an OpenFlow switch (i.e. Open vSwitch) per virtual machine; an instance of an OpenFlow controller on a dedicated server of the Community-Lab; and a set of default controller applications, like L2/L3 Learning etc. The different items of the toolkit can be used or not, depending on the specific focus of the experiment.
OpenFlow requires a layer 2 network and OFX provides a “L2 Virtual Topology Deployer” tool, which automatically deploys an arbitrary layer 2 topology among the virtual machines of the researcher. Obviously, this tool is also re-usable by other experimenters contributing to extend the Community-Lab experimental facility towards different kinds of layer 2 experiments, beyond OpenFlow. The layer 2 topology is formed by Ethernet tunnels, realized by the emerging network virtualization technology, namely Virtual Extensive LAN (VXLAN). The tunneling approach makes possible a pervasive introduction of the OFX facility in Community-Lab, since it makes the OFX platform independent from the specific deployment of Research Devices (i.e., directly connected or connected through non-CONFINE devices) and from the underlying IP routing protocol used in the Community Networks (e.g. OLSR, BGP, etc.). Indeed, Community-Lab is rather heterogeneous with respect to these two aspects, therefore being the new facility independent from them avoids deployment issues.
To test the effectiveness of the proposed extensions, CONFLATE uses the new Research Devices of Ninux.org to deploy a simple (but practical) OpenFlow based MPEG DASH Live Video Streaming service for real users of Ninux.org. Among the plethora of possible test applications, CONFLATE selects the video streaming since it is actually one of the killer applications in Community Networks, it is not (yet) available in Ninux.org, and can provide an hands-on user guide about how to use the OFX facility to setup OpenFlow experiments that involve real users.
The CONFLATE consortium is formed by the CNIT group at University of Rome “Tor Vergata” and by the Unidata company (SME). Key persons of the Ninux.org community are involved in the project under the umbrella of CNIT and Unidata. CNIT has a well-established experience in OpenFlow experimentation gained by the participation to EU FP7 projects like: OFELIA, OpenLab and GEANT GN3plus. Hence, the CONFLATE project would establish a trait d’union between CONFINE and these projects. Unidata is an Integrated Communications Provider which offers fiber and wireless Internet access in Rome, and also cloud computing services. Unidata has an on-the-field experience in network deployment and virtualization systems.
Remote areas in Europe still face the problem of limited ICT connectivity. The traditional connectivity solutions are implemented only in areas with trade and commercial interests, letting all distant, less “financially interesting” areas in isolation. The inequitable distribution of broadband connectivity to rural areas is part of the digital divide often more broadly defined as the technology availability discrepancy among socioeconomic or racial/ethnic groups. This rural digital divide diminishes access to educational and business opportunities, informational resources, and sources of administrative, academic and / or professional support. The remote areas need to leapfrog past the expense of traditional solutions (e.g. optical wire) and begin to develop a full-coverage broadband wireless infrastructure. Lacking adequate connections to advanced telecommunications infrastructure and services, rural communities are not able to fully participate in the emerging information economy. In these terms the CONFINE project and the 2nd open call for its expansion could give priceless output in the form of guidelines for further economic development and sustainability solutions, which are much needed especially in the current critical economical situation. The solution of community networks can enhance access to a wide array of professional development opportunities and to quality services (educational, administrative, business, etc.); can foster better efficiency in a range of administrative tasks; can facilitate the connectivity affordability in both remote and low-income areas.
The goal of the Sarantaporo.gr project is to offer further expansion of the open federated test platform which facilitates experimentally-driven research in existing community networks (WP3). The networks to be federated to the current testbed are already successful in providing Internet access in fifteen villages in the area of Sarantaporo in Elassona Municipality (Greece), as a viable model or the Future edge Internet, the basis for a Digital society and economy for all.
The overall scientific and technological methodology used in this project is centered in the expansion of the testbed for experimental research on community networks under CONFINE project and the socio-economic impact of a rural community network. .This effort shall be complemented with the actual construction and operation of links between the existing Sarantaporo networks with the AWMN, which is part of the existing CONFINE testbed. The project will address short term limitations that directly affect the construction and operation of the testbed expansion, but it will also look at longer term issues that affect the sustainability of the testbed in community networks and will research the socio-economic impact a community network has in a rural underdeveloped area.
The project is expected to have a positive impact on the expansion of the testbed, adding 15 to 18 new nodes, which will be deployed in the area around Sarantaporo village. This expansion will allow researchers to carry out experimentation on real-world IP community network in a rural area, which currently does not have a connectivity alternative other than the mesh network developed on a voluntary basis. A realistic testbed, such as the Sarantaporo.gr WiFi Network, is essential for research in terms of pragmatic operational conditions and real-time problem occurrences and solving. The expansion of the testbed is expected to provide a real time case study with special geographic, social and technological characteristics for identification and assessment of possible issues which may rise in the community network.
Universal access to Internet is crucial. There have been several initiatives to enable wider access to the Internet. The Public Access WiFi Service (PAWS) is one such initiative that enables free Internet access to all and is based on Lowest Cost Denominator Networking (LCDNet) – a set of network techniques that enable users to share their home broadband network with the public. LCDNet makes use of a portion of the available unused capacity in home broadband networks and allows Less-than-Best Effort (LBE) access to these resources. The PAWS testbed is currently under deployment in a deprived community in Nottingham with a further planned deployment in rural Scotland.
However, PAWS has faced ongoing deployment challenges such as limited coverage and most importantly due to home user sharing patterns. The underlying problem with PAWS or any crowdshared network (such as FON) is that they serve as single point of access to users within the coverage of the wireless router and hence have no provision to extend the coverage or to provide any redundancy during unavailability of the routers. A potential solution to these problems would be to extend the PAWS network as a crowdshared mesh network where home broadband users share part of their own broadband connection to the public for free while such home routers are also connected to each other as a wireless mesh providing extended coverage as well as offering redundant paths to the Internet backhaul.
Extending PAWS to a crowd-shared mesh network departs from the norm: multiple users from different network operators/ISPs form part of the mesh network to provide free Internet connectivity while most wireless community mesh networks today are run by a single provider (either a network operator or an organization). This raises important questions: Who would be responsible for setting up, managing, resolving serious issues/tussles in such networks? What are the benefits or incentives for the various network operators to be involved as part of a community crowd-shared mesh network?
With the advent of Software Defined Networking (SDN), there are more opportunities for network operators to deploy and manage in large scale such open public wireless networks and to resolve the above mentioned tussles. The COSMOS project aims to investigate experimentally the feasibility and any potential benefits of enabling PAWS or any crowd-shared wireless network as a crowd-shared wireless mesh network federated by a third party virtual network operator (VNO) using an evolutionary SDN architecture and quantify the associated benefits that such adoption could bring. Such a network will allow us to utilize the available capacity from multiple ISPs and maintain existing client connections even when some of the home network routers are unavailable. In this project, we will implement the control plane functions that are required by the VNO to manage a crowd-shared wireless mesh network, carrying out load balancing and user traffic redirection over the wireless links when sharers change their sharing policies. The benefits offered by the COSMOS network will be compared to the PAWS network.
IEEE 802.11 (WiFi) networks and especially community driven mesh networks are used to provide Internet access anywhere anytime. However, their performance is far below the achievable limits when multiple participants share the same frequency spectrum in an uncoordinated manner. The major reason behind such inefficiency is the lack of practical resource allocation algorithms that adapt well to wireless network dynamically and select the appropriate transmission parameters such as transmission rates and power levels. Most current practical schemes are rather simplistic and only change a single transmission parameter. For instance, Transmit Power Control (TPC) works at the WiFi PHY layer and commonly assigns one static and rather high power level to all packets regardless if a lower transmission power would provide an equal network performance with lower interference to its environment. A per-link or packet scheme is expected to provide better performance, but typically increases complexity and requires higher-layer information, such as medium access state from the Medium Access Control (MAC) layer. Therefore, although performance improvements have been shown in theory, these ideas are largely uninvestigated in practice.
In our networking group at Technical University of Berlin we have focused within our latest research in the analysis of the feasibility and performance impact of a joint and per-link rate and power controller in a real WiFi system. To this end, we first enabled cross-layer communication of transmission power between the WiFi PHY and MAC layers in the Linux mac80211 subsystem. Within several publications and a PhD thesis, we designed and implemented a distributed rate and power MAC-layer control algorithm, Minstrel-Blues, which does not rely on signal strength or channel state information, but uses local statistics from periodic sampling of different rate and power combinations. Essentially, Minstrel-Blues can run on any WiFi hardware that supports packet-level power and rate control capabilities. Minstrel Blues decides the data- rate, and consequently, the minimum power-level to support the chosen rate using a two-attribute utility function based on the throughput and power consumption of all rates. To expose the trade-off between throughput and network interference, we also introduced a weight parameter for the utility function, which tunes the importance of throughput in utility decisions.
Our initial results show that if the goal is on maximizing the per-link throughput, Minstrel-Blues can significantly reduce transmission power necessary to communicate per link, while maintaining the same throughput achieved with maximum transmit power. Based on experiments in our research testbed BOWL (Berlin Open Wireless Lab), at 5Ghz, Minstrel-Blues shows significant overall throughput enhancements due to increasing spatial reuse. Our performance analysis concludes with experiments in the 2.4 GHz ISM band with small-scale scenarios. As more and more WiFi Access Points are deployed and with upcoming IEEE 802.11 n and ac devices using wider channel widths, resource allocation is expected to become even more important to manage interference efficiently. To this end, our work significantly contributes to the understanding of rate, power and carrier-sense control in practice.
To be able to deploy our controller in existing WiFi systems, the next steps are to extent our work in terms of experimental research, hence to analyse the special reuse potentials in more realistic WiFi environments in larger scale and under real world conditions. We believe that the CONFINE community testbed would provide us with an optimal research environment to analyse and understand the impact of power and rate control in practice. And more specifically we would like to answer the question what are reasonable default values for the tuneable parameters of our controller Minstrel-Blues. By now we can specify the aggressiveness of the power reduction as well as the sampling rate and therefore the overhead to explorer feasible rate and power combinations. Our proposed experimentation in the CONFINE testbed would allow us to analyse the trade-off between per-link power adaptations, hence interference mitigation and per-link throughput behaviour in comparison to overall network throughput gains.
Community Networks (CNs) are IP-based networks designed, built, and op- erated by individuals that join together and cooperate to satisfy their telecommunication needs. In contrast to the typical DSL customer, a CN user is not limited to the role of a consumer, but considered an active contributor and stakeholder of the network with duties, rights, a voice for sug- gesting changes, and that has to some extend even the possibility to influence in the cooperative networking tasks.
However, several obstacles exist that are limiting user-centric routing in cooperative networking. Although communities have created tools to visualize the topology of their networks, the currently existing tools provide few feedback about the performance of individual links and resulting end to end (e2e) routes and how both relates to the performance perceived by an individual user. Also, nowadays employed routing protocols are based on assumption that must be followed by all nodes and that are imposing strong technical limitations on the self-determination of CN users to apply individual policies.
The objective of this project is to enhance the users means for understanding and influencing cooperative networking tasks while ensuring a continuous operation of the network. Therefore, in order to improve the understanding existing tools will be enhanced to with features that allow to better capture the overall state and characteristics of the network. The awareness how the CN topology relates to the perspective of its users, and their integration in the network. Applying these tools, the BatMan-eXperimental version 6 (BMX6) routing protocol will be enhanced with new means to consider this knowledge and allow users to individually adjust the policies according to which their traffic is routed through the network. The combination of these two objectives will help to identify, test, and deploy better routing metrics and allow the application of user-centric routing, for example by individually customizing the e2e route selection exclusively for delay-, loss-, or Throughput (TP) sensitive applications.
The performance and therefore overall utility of community wireless networks (CWNs) critically depends on the availability of radio resources in unlicensed spectrum bands. Therefore, it is vital that the underlying network architecture has the capability to make use of these scarce resources as efficient as possible. Thus, CWNs can only sustain performance under increasing node density and traffic demand when they are able to adapt to wireless link conditions without central coordination or manual intervention. Up to the present day, the most widely used method to learn those changing link characteristics was active probing at the network layer. This method actively consumes valuable radio resources itself and has limited accuracy when compared to direct measurements at the physical and link-layer parts of the respective network stack.
Access to these descriptive statistics was previously hard if not impossible to implement – mostly because the wireless network interface card (NIC) drivers did not expose them at all or in a proprietary and therefore limited manner. However, these restrictions have been lifted recently by architectural changes in the Linux wireless stack and the introduction of appropriate APIs. In combination with recent IEEE 802.11 chipset implementations that further facilitate such data export the implementation of direct measurement methods at link-layer seems now feasible.
In this document we propose to complement a number of community and research nodes within the CONFINE testbed with these newly available lower-layer data extraction and measurement capabilities. These methods will not interfere with the current network architecture and not depend on additional hardware requirements. Once they are implemented and tested, these functions can also be incorporated into other CWNs around the world in order to significantly boost robustness and efficiency in terms of common radio resource utilization.
The project consists of three phases:
Our planned activities in phase 3) also envisage the incorporation of a cross-layer information transport protocol standard called Dynamic Link Exchange Protocol - DLEP. This protocol can be used to make physical and link layer datasets accessible to routing layers in a timely and standardized fashion.