This draft chapter summarizes my findings. Based on a recent trip to Germany, where vibrant new communities have triggered discussions about what makes the essence of Freifunk, I am suggesting that the future of wireless community networks lies in the notion of the Network Commons.
The social technologies of the wireless community network are technologies specifically developed to support social goals, such as community networking. Typically, new technologes are developed by large firms or the state. The achievements of wireless community networks demonstrate that there is an alternative, community based innovations. This chapter presents the genealogy of some of the key technologies needed for wireless community networking and discusses their social content.
Good ideas often pop up at the same time at various points on the Earth, they just seem to be in the air. And so it came that around the year 2000 at different points on the globe wireless free community networks were started: Consume.net in London, New York Wireless, Seattle Wireless and Personal Telco, in Portland Oregon, were among the first wireless community networks based on Wireless LAN, or WLAN. Nobody really can say which one came first. I have been lucky to experience the development of Consume and free2air.org in London from a close encounter. Therefore, in this chapter I will tell the story of those networks.
The Rise of the Network Commons is the working title of a new book which I am currently writing. It returns to the topos of the wireless commons on which I worked during the early 2000s. In this new version, combining original research from my German book Freie Netze (2004) and new research conducted in the context of the EU funded project Confine, the exciting world of wireless community network projects such as Guifi.net and Freifunk, Berlin, gets interspersed with philosophical reflections on the relationship between technology, art, politics and history. This is the first draft of the first chapter. In the final version, texts may significantly change. Critique and comments are welcome. You can send your opinion either to me in email or ask me for an account to post comments here armin (a) easynet dot co dot uk.