Building A Commons Network Infrastructure

Not so long back, we the people of India was given a choice to defend Net Neutrality or let it get violated by Telecom and Internet Service Providers (ISPs). We have successfully defended Net Neutrality in India as a result of collective action of Internet Activists, Free Speech activists, Free Software movements, Entrepreneurs, etc.,

When campaigns like SaveTheInternet went viral on the web, some of FSFTN's community members started a discussion. This discussion revolved around the nature of Web and Internet's infrastructure. Trying to understand the fundamental reasons behind what makes Censorship, violation of Net Neutrality and mass surveillance possible, the discussion expanded towards the ownership and control of the platforms themselves.

This led to the awakening of building an alternate network infrastructure where the users / citizens collectively establish and manage the network infrastructure instead of relying on giant Telecom / Internet Service Providers who controls the infrastructure currently, as a result of which we are encountering the above three problems.

In simpler terms,

Instead of relying on ISPs (or) Telecom Operators, we (users) ourselves can build our own network to communicate.

The idea might seem daunting for many (or) even impossible. One might ask, how can we people build huge Cellphone / Radio towers like Cellular providers does? The answer is, we are not going to build such huge artefacts. Instead, the idea is to make use of Wi-Fi devices to talk to each other when they are in range.

One such example is an android application called Serval Mesh which uses WiFi ad-hoc mode to allow people to make a voice call / send messages without SIM cards or cellular networks.

The users (or) citizen established and managed networks are called Community networks. Since we are using Wireless devices, we call this Wireless Community Networks and we are not the first one to talk about it. Such community networks have been already established at various places around the world like Freifunk at Germany, Guifi.net at Spain, etc.,

Our community members have taken inspiration from such networks and out of the discussion they have now started to organize themselves to build such networks. Right now, we have community networks organized at 3 different places,

  1. PYMESH - Pondicherry Meshnet
  2. Chennai Mesh Network Community
  3. Libre Digital Library at Karaikudi.

People have been building Antenna's, flashing routers, serving complete Tamil and English Wikipedia offline, etc.,

Pondicherry

Chennai

There are various challenges that have to be overcome, right from hardware limitations. Nevertheless, a commons network infrastructure which invites everyone to be part of is possible.

If you are interested to join the networks, feel free to contact the respective community members.

  1. Pondicherry - https://vector.im/beta/#/room/#pymesh:matrix.org
  2. Chennai - https://www.facebook.com/groups/963155543798989
  3. Karaikudi - Will be updated soon.