Wireless Community Networks: Towards a Public Policy for the Network Commons
Belli & De Filippi (eds), Net Neutrality Compendium: Human Rights, Free Competition and the Future of the Internet, Springer, 2015
16 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2016 Last revised: 16 Oct 2016
Date Written: September 30, 2015
The history of communication technologies is populated with conflicts between centralization and decentralization. While many of these technologies started or have existed at some point of their development as a decentralized structure, often replacing older technological paradigms, nearly all progressively evolved into concentrated clusters of power as a result of industrialization and of the reaffirmation of state sovereignty, following a Schumpeterian process of “creative-destruction”. However, when the needs of citizens turn out to be systematically overlooked in existing power dynamics, decentralized initiatives may emerge as an attempt to disrupt the dominant hegemony and allow for the democratic re-appropriation of technology – a process that the philosopher Andrew Feenberg calls “subversive rationalization.”
In this paper, we focus on an ongoing – though too often neglected – phenomenon of decentralization in telecommunications networks. We show that current telecoms regulation significantly overlooks the contribution of community networks in fostering political and socio-economic objectives associated with broadband policy and we propose a number of policy recommendations to overcome this gap.
Keywords: communication technologies, wireless community networks, internet policy, regulation, competition
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