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Expanding the Internet Commons: The Subversive Potential of Wireless Community Networks

Abstract : In this paper, we focus on an ongoing—though too often neglected—phenomenon of decentralization in telecommunications networks: we show how the current revival of grassroots community networks can counterbalance the erosion of autonomy of Internet users that results from current telecom policies. As opposed to more larger and centralized network infrastructures owned and managed by powerful third parties (such as the state or large, highly capitalized Internet Service Providers (ISPs)), grassroots community networks are deployed by the community and for the community at the local or regional level. Rather than being driven by profits, they focus on the actual needs of the needs of its participants. They also experiment with novel models of distributed governance relying on cooperation and sharing among a community of peers (from a dozen to tens of thousands participants), and that are reminiscent of commons-based peer production schemes (Benkler 2006). In our study, we focus on 'Wireless Community Networks' (WCN) (i.e those community networks providing connectivity through radio technologies, and Wi-Fi especially). While many community networks do not rely on radio technologies, those who do exhibit particular features that contrast more strongly from the dominant model found in traditional ISPs. In particular, to the extent that they rely solely and exclusively on free-to-use airwaves (or 'spectrum commons'), WCN are to some extent more independent from incumbent ISPs than landline community networks who necessarily have to enter into a contractual relationship with the owners of the 'last-mile' landline network infrastructure.
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https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-01306630
Contributor : Félix Tréguer <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, January 9, 2018 - 6:13:41 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, August 5, 2020 - 3:14:07 AM

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  • HAL Id : halshs-01306630, version 2

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  • is version of hal-01265208 - production parallèle de la co-auteure

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Primavera de Filippi, Félix Tréguer. Expanding the Internet Commons: The Subversive Potential of Wireless Community Networks. Journal of Peer Production, 2015. ⟨halshs-01306630v2⟩

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