Expanding the Internet Commons: The Subversive Potential of Wireless Community Networks
Journal of Peer Production, Issue No. 6: Disruption and the Law, January 2015
40 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2016
Date Written: January 31, 2015
The paper begins by sketching out a short history of telecom policy, pointing to the prejudicial consequences of centralization from a political perspective, as incumbent ISPs turn into network gatekeepers, fostering their commercial interests by exerting greater control over users' communications. Based on our fieldwork and qualitative interviews, the paper then moves on to describing WCN, presenting the main characteristics of these grassroots attempts at bringing about a “subversive rationalization” of the last-mile network infrastructure. This second section outlines the motivations underlying the deployment of WCN, together with their technical features and innovative, commons-based models of governance, which all strongly contrast with the dominant, commercial model for Internet access provision. The third and last section assesses the impact of WCN on telecom regulation and the new power dynamics it entails, with regard to both the private sector and the public sector. The paper concludes that current telecom regulation significantly overlooks the contribution of community networks to fostering political and socio-economic objectives associated with broadband policy and proposes a number of policy recommendations to overcome this gap.
Keywords: wireless community networks, mesh networking, internet commons, spectrum regulation, competition
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation