Recently there has been much talk about exactly how, and to what, Community Networks should provide access. One thing that most people agree on is that getting money involved makes things more complicated, but there's no real agreement as to at what point this becomes bad. This has been discussed on the MailingLists and at ForFreeVsForProfit. Here are some thoughts on what we could accomplish and some of the problems there may be.
Our AcceptableUse agreement should be a translation of the GNU General Public License. We can't directly use the GPL because the issues involved are different but an agreement which takes the spirit of the GPL and translates it into a pertinent document would be ideal. In effect we are creating the beginnings of a FreeNetworkFoundation.
- We say we want it to be free, but what exactly does free mean? Free as in no money? Free as in freedom?
- If we want it to be free (as in freedom) what does that mean? Any one can use it? There's no sign up barrier? No one is monitoring or restricting your traffic?
In the minds of many people free equals worthless, and a perception of worthless means that it's not valued and thus not looked after (see TheTragedyOfTheCommons).
- What if membership costs something but doesn't cost money, is this still free enough? Maybe you have to put up a node? Maybe you have to come to a meeting? What else?
With FreeSoftware it doesn't cost you anything for another person to use your software, with CommunityNetworking every byte that someone sends is a byte that someone else potentially can't.
There are no economies of scale. With FreeSoftware more eyes means more bugs found etc, with CommunityNetworking all it means is more users to support and less bandwidth for everyone.
In my opinion, being free means that anybody can join without having to use particular hardware or software or paying anybody money. There are protocols that must be followed and agreements that must be kept, but they should be as easy to follow. "We use IP and a router must not intentionally misroute packets." This means the network will not be secure, which means you should something like ssh, ssl, or VPN. People are free to use this network to make money. In particular, ISPs will probably sell you access to the internet for a small fee, and we don't mind them using the free network as their connection to their customers as long as they follow the rules of the group about routing packets inside the city.
There are economies of scale. As more nodes join the group, there become more paths through the system and more total bandwidth. Bandwidth inside the network is what counts. If we need more bandwidth to the internet, people will need to buy more from the ISPs. -- RalphJohnson
Just for the record I know that there are many OpenSource fans that loath the GPL because of it's viral licensing. I like the viral licensing and I think that the arguments that the GPL is "less free" is basically FUD, it's like arguing that the USA is "less free" because of the first amendment. Freedom comes from the enforcement of a few carefully selected laws, not from the removal of all laws. -- AdamShand
I am very attracted to the free speech aspect of this and have been thinking about how to retain freedom if free speech on the wired Internet goes away (DMCA, SSSCA, Hollings mischief). The weakness of the wired Internet in this regard is that the thick pipes are single points of failure in the hands of small numbers of easily identified organizations. I started to think about grassroots thick pipes a little bit in a Usenet thread. Would it make sense to put microwave dishes on tops of poles or towers? Is that unreasonably expensive? -- WillWare
I browsed your Usenet thread, good stuff. There is an AdhocRouting protocol called GRID (By RTM of Internet Worm fame) which does use latitude and longitude as part of the routing metric. I think the the people who responded to you hadn't done a lot of thinking about the nature of an adhoc wireless network. Their comments were very true when dealing with a traditional network (distance between nodes isn't a good metric for routing on a wired internet). However given that wireless, especially LineOfSite protocols like 802.11b, is inherently geograhpicly based I think that using lat/long as part of the metric makes a lot of sense. There are other metrics that make sense in a wireless network as well like paying more attention to packet loss (because packet loss represents a bad wireless link) or even better paying attention directly to wireless stats on attached interfaces (like noise level and signal strenght stats).
All of this is part of why I think it's crucial that we find or build LinuxAccessPoints so that we can take advantage of everything that the hardware offers us rather then being tied into the offerings of a commercial AccessPoint (which tend to be consumer oriented and thus not very flexible).
You might be interested in poking around the MetaNet and MappingSoftware pages. I think cordinating all of this information we get from nodes, users, the CaptivePortal etc is going to be essential to building a community of any size. -- AdamShand
A new category of T.A.Z. (Temporary Autonomous Zone)...
W.A.Z. WIRELESS AUTONOMOUS ZONE !!