This is a space for public dissemination of information related to social research made by Confine and its partners.
Following, we present a brief summary of the origins, goals and main features of several community networks around the world. We are grateful to all the people that supports these networks and make possible their existence, contributing to their local communities and the creation of opportunities for many. Our special thanks to those who have made time to share with us no only their knowledge, but also their stories and dreams.
Anisacate is a small village located in the Province of Córdoba, Argentina. It has a population of 5000 inhabitants and is located 5 Km away from the city of Alta Gracia.
The AnisacateLibre project emerges in 2011 from the initiative of the citizens of Anisacate to create a community network for the provision of Internet access to the neighbours of the village. One of the project's initiators, installed an antenna in his house to create a point-to point link to his friend's house in Alta Gracia, which allowed him to have Internet access. After that, this enthusiast of community networks, started to read about the topic and found out that citizens from a neighbouring town, José de la Quintana, located 10 Km apart, had developed a community network project. Thrilled by his findings, he contacted some people involved in such project, who shared their experiences, technical know-how and advice. After gaining some expertise, it was possible to coordinate the creation of a small network in a neighbourhood of Anisacate (of only 10 inhabitants). Also a website was created with the aim of disseminating the vision and state of the project. Many people, motivated by the need of Internet access, showed interest and became active participants of the AnisacateLibre project.
Four years later, the network has grown considerably. There are nine new nodes on operation and another eight, which were build in workshops by members of the project themselves, will be installed shortly. Today, the network covers some specific areas: a small neighbourhood in the North of Anisacate, a small community located 4 Km away, in Valle de Anisacate, and a few blocks in the Cerritos de la Bolsa neighbourhood, located in the neighbouring town of La Bolsa. In addition, the AnisacateLibre network is now connected to the existing community network in José de La Quintana. There, both community networks share a 50 Km link to Córdoba, the capital of the Córdoba Province and the second largest city in Argentina. In Córdoba, a company granted them access to a Network Access Point (NAP), where the networks get broadband Internet access.
AnisacateLibre faces many challenges for the growth and maintenance of the network. The small size of the community and the lack of technical knowledge of the members make difficult the extension of the network. Nevertheless, Anisacate is an example of citizen collaboration, where several local people coordinate efforts and share resources and expertise for the benefit of smaller communities. In AnisacateLibre, participation and engagement of people from José de la Quintana, La Serranita, Buenos Aires, Alta Gracia among others has contributed to the establishment and growth of the network. Also, companies and public institutions like the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba have supported and provided resources for the project
Nepal is a small landlocked country located between China and India. It has a population of about thirty million inhabitants. It is a mountainous country with the majority of the highest mountains of the world. Politically, Nepal is the youngest republic of the world, which is officially called the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.
Even if the mobile penetration rate has increased significantly in recent years in Nepal, many people in the rural areas are still deprived from communication services including Internet. According to an official report issued in 2011 by the National Telecommunication Authority in Nepal, about 55% of Nepali people do not have telephone services and almost 90% of them have no access to the Internet. Statistics from 2003 are even more alarming and help us understand clearly the reason behind the emergence of Nepal Wireless in 2001. In 2003, the penetration rate of voice Internet services was only a 1.7% and 0.6% respectively.
Nepal Wireless was born with the desperate need of a modern communication system for local use to help villagers communicate and run community development projects in different villages effectively and successfully. The idea of using wireless networks to provide affordable local communication services to some mountain villages evolved few years before the real start of Nepal Wireless. In particular, developers and international volunteers informally implemented testing phase of the wireless network in Nangi in 2001. Nangi is a small village of 800 inhabitants located in the foothills of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Himalayas, in western Nepal, at an elevation of 7,300 feet. It takes pedestrians about 7 hours to climb the mountain from the nearest highway to Nangi. The low population and harsh geography of Nangi make it less attractive for telecommunication companies to invest in it. In addition, Nangi is an isolated and remote village that lack infrastructures and economic opportunities other than farming. More specifically, its residents are subsistence farmers who use primitive farming tools such as wooden plows, iron spades, axes, sickles etc. There are no roads in the area. Therefore, villagers carry all kinds of loads such as supplies, fire wood, building materials, composts and others on their back, which is how they have been doing it for centuries.
Currently, Nangi has a robust wireless network and a community computer lab. This lab serves as the main hub for the wireless networks that connects more than 120 villages in the 13 districts of Nepal. Several reporters from around the world such as BBC (2004), ABC News (Harsany 2004), PC Magazines(Harsany, 2003), and The Sydney Morning Herald (Levett 2004) and many more have written about the role of Nepal Wireless in connecting and improving the economic conditions of such rural communities.
The goals and objectives of the project have evolved over time. At the initial stage of the project, the goal was to connect just a few neighbouring villages of Nangi and provide communication services such as IP telephony and email communication. The founders of the project did not know what other purposes the wireless technology could be used for. New objectives and services have emerged after several years of experience, collaboration and interactions with similar community wireless networks. For example, it was found that the minimum intranet bandwidth in local wireless network was around 2 Mbps, which was enough to run simple video conferencing application for teaching and training purpose. Therefore, the current objective is not to bring only the Internet and computers in the rural areas but to maximize the benefits of wireless and information technology for the rural population in remote areas. Nepal Wireless is trying its best by introducing useful applications and services in the field of education, health, communication, e-commerce activities and climate change monitoring activities. The project is even working on helping national parks of Nepal to set up IP-based surveillance system to monitor the movements of poachers in the park. Using the wireless technology, we hope to make the life of rural people easier and bring some socio-economic transformation. Besides, the long-term goal of Nepal Wireless is to become one of the biggest rural Internet Service Providers in Nepal to help bridge digital gap narrower.
Unimos is simply an association of people with the common interest of creating a free and open community wireless networks. Its members are individuals who help expand existing networks in their local communities and share information among themselves. This information is mostly technical knowledge about the best ways to setup hardware and software in order to maximize performance and compatibility.
Currently, Unimos network operates in five different locations: Lisbon (with 3 active nodes), Nazaré (with about 50), Ourém ( with 6), Quiaios (with around 10) and Ervedosa (with 10). Ervedosa, Lisbon and Ourém are connected with a VPN across the Internet. The other two are currently out-of-reach for the remaining network.
Unimos origins are reflected in the fact that the Portuguese word Unimos literally means “we join” or “we unite”.This name was chosen due to the fact that the Unimos network was born from the joint effort of members of two community networks existing in the town of Nazaré and the city of Ourém. Both networks, located approximately 57 Km apart from each other, were developed and maintained by a only few tireless enthusiasts. At that time, most nodes were custom-made: some consisted of re-flashed off-the-shelf routers, others were boards (ALIX/router boards) inside customized, isolating plastic cases, while others were rigged old desktop computers. As a result, many of these machines had problems with weather changes and outdoor conditions. With the passing of the years, this custom-made hardware has been replaced progressively by off-the-shelf routers, which are easy to flash and install.
The network organization (or lack thereof) was heavily inspired by the model of Freifunk, in Germany. In the beginning, Unimos used the Freifunk firmware on most nodes. With time, all routers were upgraded to OpenWRT. After the initial connection of the networks in Nazaré Ourém, some people at Quiaios also started to install routers. They used more robust hardware from the very beginning. Later on a small number of nodes were installed in Lisbon and there are ongoing efforts to expand the network in the city.
Ervedosa is the most recent addition. It is a very inspiring story of a village on the top of a mountain. Ervedosa have suffered a severe desertification, which have caused that most people have emigrated to other places. The remaining residents consider that themselves, and those who now only go to the village on vacation, should be well-connected to the outside world. As a result, an initial pilot programme was deployed, with the deployment of 10 nodes. However, more nodes are currently being prepared to be installed. Last Christmas, the community had a very rewarding experience, when many people returned to their home village and were thrilled to find out that this place, literally in the middle of nowhere, had a great network working and providing them connection to the rest of the world.
* Network name: Unimos
Guifi.net is a free, open and neutral, mostly wireless telecommunications community network, with over 31,302 nodes, of which more than 20,130 are operational, about 36,465 km of wireless links. The majority of these nodes are located in Catalonia and the Valencian Community, in Spain. It is probably the largest community network in the world. The network is self-organized and operated by the users using unlicensed wireless and open optical fibre links.
Guifi.net is supported by the Guifi.net Foundation, which has been registered as an operator with the Spanish Telecommunications Market Commission (CMT) since in April 2009. In August 2009, the first deployment of optical fibre was started, known as the Fibre From The Farms (FFTF) Broadband Initiative, covering about 2 km and linking dozens of farms and farmhouses in the town of Gurb.
Since early 2011, guifi.net is connected to the Catalonia Neutral Internet Exchange Point (CATNIX), which exchanges data with other international telecommunications operators. This Internet connection is used by several associations that offer their members Internet access to low-cost at high speeds, which currently do not offer other Internet service providers.
The first Guifi.net activities took place in 2003 in Gurb, a municipality of Catalonia with a geographical extension of 52 Km2 that belongs to the County of Osona. Gurb does not have an urban core area and is composed by several geographically dispersed farms. Guifi.net arises from the farmers' communication needs, who had to send daily reports about their cattle and crop yield. As a consequence, a group of farmers thought about the possibility to create wireless communication links between their farms in order to find a scalable solution to have coverage in the area. In addition, the town hall shared its ADSL to provide Internet access to the citizens.
There are many interesting stories about the beneficial impact of Guifi.net in different communities. A remarkable example is the Catalan County of Osona, where Guifi.net has it origins. The following figure shows official statistics of Catalonia about Internet and broadband access (blue and red bars, respectively). It compares the average Internet penetration rate in Catalonia(green line)and Europe (blue line). As we can observe Osona has the highest penetration rate in Catalonia and it reaches the European average. In Osona, a 79% of the citizens has Internet access and 80% of the connections are broadband. Osona went from number 31 to the top in the ranking of counties with higher Internet access (Source: El Nou, local newspaper of the County of Osona). This resounding success has to be bestowed to the development of Guifi.net in the area.
Ninux.org is a Wireless Network Community in Italy, a free, open and experimental community network. It was born in Rome around 2002 and now spanning all over Italy. Its name currently stands for “Neighbourhood Internet, Network Under eXperiment”. In fact, Ninux.org has been testing devices, auto-built antennas and routing protocols while exchanging knowledge with the other Community Networks in Europe. With 242 active nodes and nearly 1000 planned nodes, it is one of the top ten Wireless Community Networks in the world in number of active nodes. The majority of nodes is concentrated in Rome (around 2/3 of total) but many “Ninux islands” are spread all over Italy.
Since 2013, Ninux is an experimental member of the NaMeX Internet Exchange Point in Rome.
FunkFeuer is a free, experimental network in Vienna, Graz, in parts of Weinviertel (NÖ) and Bad Ischl. FunkFeuer is a non commercial network build and maintained by computer enthusiasts.
The Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network (AWMN) started in 2002 in Athens Greece. Although the network began in Athens, it now covers a geographical area of 110 km from North to South and 85 km from West to East.The wide expansion of the network allows isolated areas with poor technological and broadband infrastructure to connect with the Athenian network, providing these accesses to a plethora of services with high speeds. Also the islands of Aegina, Salamina and the regions surrounding Athens are connected to the network.
In anticipation of connecting to AWMN, small wireless 'islets' have been created in other cities and on other islands where AWMN has contributed with technical know-how and equipment. Recently the island of Euboea connected with more links with AWMN for redundancy purposes and the next stage will be to join the wireless 'islets' located in Corinth, Lamia (city) and Volos. There are also plans to reach even more remote cities of Greece such as Patras. For wireless 'islets' and communities that is impossible to connect wirelessly, a VPN pool has been provided. This year AWMN connected most of the Greek communities and managed to cross the Greek borders. It has initiated a VPN connection with wlan slovenija network in Slovenia with the vision to connect all the wireless communities of Europe into one network.
The AWMN network comprises 1120 backbone nodes and more than 2900 client computers connect to it.
From the start of the project, care was taken by the non-profit AWMN association. he main purpose of the association is to promote two-way digital broadband telecommunication services to the public as a nonprofit activity, in collaboration with schools, local authorities, NGOs, independent regulatory authorities and other Community Wireless Networks in Greece.