This chapter takes a bird-eyes' view of history, locating the developments of wireless community networks within a historical transition from industrial to information society. Following the thesis that this paradigm shift has become stuck, creating serious obstacles for realizing the emancipatory potentials of information society, the conclusion can only be that those obstacles need to be overcome in order to realize “Society in Ad-hoc mode” as a positive, really existing utopia.
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 previous chapter has delved into some of the bigger implications of free networks in relation to the overall historic development. It has described the overall development as an incomplete paradigm shift, characterized by an ongoing structural crisis of information society. This chapter starts with the question, what makes a network sustainable? On the surface of things it looks like the conditions for growth are better in rural areas, where there are no good alternatives provided by the telecommunications industry. Examples in Spain, Germany, as well as Greece show that there can be successful models that bring together community initiatives with municipalities. This appears to have worked less well in the USA where after a good start in the early 2000s hardly any wireless community networks exist. It seems that the relationship between rich and poor in the US is almost like the relationship between the overdeveloped world and the poor nations of the South. This chapter finishes with a more sustained look into selected projects from the global South.
This is an Interview made by Viviana Viancos with Corinna "Elektra" Aichele, before she made a presentation in Espacio G. The photo is moment of her presentation on November 15th in Espacio G, Valparaíso, Chile.
Viviana Viancos: 1. How will be your participation in the 2nd Digital Culture Meeting? Can you describe it?
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.