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 [http://www.fsf.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html GPL] because the issues involved are different but an agreement which takes the spirit of the GPL and translates it into a pertinant 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?
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 [http://groups.google.com/groups?threadm=3CB86C02.80FA3DA8%40alum.mit.edu Usenet thread]. Would it make sense to put microwave dishes on tops of poles or towers? Is that unreasonably expensive? -- WillWare