NetCommons - Our Neighbourhood, Our ISP
 Posted on 29/05/2014 - 02:41
Idea Outline
The NetCommons is a WLAN-like network of smartphones, laptops, routers, walkie-talkies, and infrared devices, that covers whole neighbourhoods or villages. It helps communities organize, and fosters local exchange, collaboration, and solidarity.

The Challenge
The way that telephony and internet access currently work is unsustainable, both socially and economically. A rising number of people in the countries most affected by the economic crisis simply cannot any longer afford to pay for the human right of connectivity. For the rest, the internet is becoming a world of walled gardens with doubtful privacy. The growing demands to its centralized infrastructure lead to high barriers of entry for local service providers (ISPs). Connectivity already plays a significant role in the economy as well as most people's lifes, but there is countless potential for change towards a network that enables local collaboration and exchange, and fosters solidarity across the neighbourhood, while not leaving behind small businesses and people with low income.

The Solution

The NetCommons is a network that expands its reach with every new participant. It grows from islands of connectivity to covering the neighbourhood, while every supported device connects to all other devices that are within its Wifi reach. For distances longer than 50m, FM radio and 3D-printed infrared devices will eventually be available. In addition to internet access, some participants may provide services like chat, telephony, or file sharing, to the network. In order to be affordable for everybody, a broad range of devices is supported: Android phones, many commercial routers, as well as all laptops running Windows, OS X, or Linux. Installation is straightforward, and configuration not needed. In Call 3, I'll be able to prepare disposable NetCommons routers in the 20 euros range.

Target group and social impact
The NetCommons provides the means for helping those whose connectivity is threatened - be it the family with low income next door who struggle to pay the rent, the local school or library that can't afford IT contracting, or activists facing censorship and police brutality. All of them benefit from a democratic, privacy-friendly, community-operated ISP. While more and more people start to participate in the network, there's a strong tendency towards using local services instead of the centralized monopolies. Project groups provide a social network for their school, linked to other networks of their choice. The bookstore can keep up with Amazon because it sells on the local network. Most of the digital needs will be catered for by local providers, be it email, chat, telephony, shopping.

Competences of the applicant
I'm a self-taught software engineer, with experience in the industry, as well as local communities, and especially the Open Source Software community. I've worked on things as diverse as networking protocols, low-level libraries, SoundCloud's application infrastructure, smartphones, content management, software development tools, and embedded systems like WLAN routers.

Video Link
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Social Category
  • Civic Empowerment and Community Engagement
  • Social Inclusion, Human Rights and Equality
  • Other

  • Tecnology Category
  • Mobile
  • Open Source
  • Social Software
  • Web/Internet
  • Other

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