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<nettime> The Wireless Commons Manifesto
Jon Lebkowsky on Tue, 31 Dec 2002 03:06:26 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> The Wireless Commons Manifesto


Importance: Normal

NOTE: Anyone can sign The Wireless Commons Manifesto
(http://dev.wirelesscommons.org/node.php?id=2). Charter signatories: Adam
Shand (Personal Telco), Bruce Potter (CAWNet), Paul Holman (Shmoo Group)
and Cory Doctorow (EFF). ---- We have formed the Wireless Commons because
a global wireless network is within our grasp. We will work to define and
achieve a wireless commons built using shared spectrum, and able to
connect people everywhere. We believe there is value to an independent and
global network which is open to the public. We will break down commercial,
technical, social and political barriers to the commons. The wireless
commons bridges one of the few remaining gaps in universal communication
without interference from middlemen and meddlers.

Humanity is on the verge of a turning point because the Internet has
transformed the way humans relate with one another. All communication can
be traced to a human relationship, whether it's lovers exchanging instant
messages or teenagers sharing music. The Internet has given us the ability
to communicate faster and more cheaply than ever before in history.

The Internet's value increases exponentially with the number of people who
are able to participate. In today's world, communication can take place
without the use of antiquated telecommunications networks. The
organizations that control these networks are limping anachronisms that
are constrained by the expense and physical necessity of using wires to
build their networks. Because of this, they cannot serve the great mass of
people who stand to benefit from a wireless commons. Their interests
diverge from ours, and their control over the network strangles our
ability to communicate.

Low-cost wireless networking equipment which can operate in unlicensed
bands of the spectrum has started another revolution. Suddenly, ordinary
people have the means to create a network independent of any physical
constraint except distance. Wireless can travel through walls, across
property boundaries and through a community. Many communities have formed
worldwide to help organize these networks. They are forming the basis for
the removal of the traditional telecommunication networks as an
intermediary in human communication.

The challenge facing community networks is the one limiting factor of
wireless communication: distance. The relationships that can be formed
across a community wireless network are limited by their physical reach.
Typically these networks are growing to the size of a city, and growth
beyond that point requires coordination and a strategic vision for
community wireless networks as a whole. Without this coordination, it is
hard to see how the worldwide community of wireless networking groups will
ever merge their systems and create a true alternative to existing
telecommunication networks.

There are many barriers to the creation of a global network. So far, the
focus has been on identifying the technical barriers and developing
methods to overcome them. But technical problems are the least of our
worries, the business, political and social issues are the real challenges
facing community networks. Hardware and software vendors need to
understand the business rationale for implementing our technical
solutions. Politicians need to understand our requirements for universal
access to unlicensed spectrum. The public needs to understand that the
network exists and how to get access. Unless these problems are identified
and addressed, the community wireless movement will never have influence
beyond a local level.

Most importantly, the network needs to be accessible to all and
provisioned by everyone who can provide. By adding enough providers to the
network, we can bridge the physical gaps imposed by the range of our
equipment. The network is a finite resource which is owned and used by the
public, and as such it needs to be nurtured by the public. This, by its
very nature, is a commons.

Becoming a part of the commons means being more than a consumer. By
signing your name below, you become an active participant in a network
that is far more than the sum of its users. You will strive to solve the
social, political and technical challenges we face. You will provide the
resources your community consumes by co-operating with total strangers to
build the network that we all dream of.

jon lebkowsky
http://www.weblogsky.com
jonl {AT} weblogsky.com




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