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Five stages to humanity's ownership of the physical layer of the network

Isaac Wilder, on the the radical necessity of humanity's co-owning the physical layer.


More info via http:www.freenetworkmovement.org


Isaac Wilder writes:


As I see it, this is the only path to freedom.
To that end, I *have* a roadmap. It has five stages, and follows hot
on the tail of this preamble. I see this roadmap playing out over the
span of a decade or more, but it does include actionable steps for the
present day. (On our way to freedom-land, as Mahalia Jackson said).
Stage 1: The Co-op

Stage one consists of the emergence of network access
cooperatives. Stage one has already begun, so instead of speaking
hypothetically, I will tell you what it looks like on the ground. I'm
not entirely sure of the legality, but I am sure of the justice. Here
in Grinnell, IA, the Free Network Movement has built a mesh network
that we call grinnellMIND. It allows us to share a single internet
connection amongst many physically disparate locations. I live on
Broad Street, Dylan lives on Main Street, Martin lives on Park Street,
and Anna lives on East. We and many others are able to purchase
Internet access cooperatively, thus driving down the amount that each
of us pays. This works especially well because of the asynchronous
nature of network usage - if we each bought our own connections, they
would lay dormant much of the time. We imagine that some day, the
entire town of Grinnell might purchase access cooperatively. That day
has not yet arrived, but we think it is on its way. This struggle for
collective purchasing will have to happen in many towns and cities,
the world over. It will have to happen for city blocks and
subdivisions, in residential towers and intentional communities. This
won't be easy to accomplish, especially when telcos catch wind of
what's going on. Still, the obvious economic advantage to the end user
(reduced cost) makes this an easy sell to the people.

Stage 2: The Digital Village

The unseen benefit of the aforementioned co-ops is that they wrest
the terminal nodes of the network away from the control of the
telco/ISP hegemony. This provides for the opportunity of network
applications that are truly peer-to-peer. At first, this will only be
able to happen within each isolated cooperative community. Imagine
that Grinnell (or some other town) makes shared use of a few pipes,
whose flow of information is distributed accross the last mile via
mesh. Now imagine that each node of that mesh network is a Diaspora
pod running a codebase that is specifically designed for use in mesh
networks (this is in development, but a ways off). People will still
have to rely on the big pipes for access to the wider internet, but to
pass each other messages and participate in social networking, at
least within the town of Grinnell, we will have achieved a truly
peer-to-peer architecture. Thus arises the digital village. What used
to be just a co-op for purchasing access has suddenly become a
community that is able to share information directly with one another.
It takes only a little more imagination to see that Diaspora is one of
many applications that could run on this architecture. I happen to
believe that the social network is the network's 'killer-app,' and so
I have chosen to use Diaspora as an example.

Stage 3: Towards Unity

Stages 2 and 3 are seperated here for clarity, but it seems likely
that stage 3 will begin shortly after stage 2, and take place
concomitantly. Stage 3 is quite simple. Using packet tunnelling
(something like Freenet or TOR, to give an idea) in concert with the
existing global network, we can simulate the contiguity of
geographically disparate digital villages. Suddenly, people all over
the world are able to share with one another directly. Specify a
user@a_node@a_network and you've got a unique address for each network
user. Of course, the corporate giants still own the backbone at this
stage, which is why we can only say *towards* unity. No uprising until
Stage 4, please.

Stage 4: A Backbone of our Own

Stage 4 is when the dream of true co-ownership becomes a reality.
We are already starting in on what needs to be done here, because it's
a pretty tall order, and will take some time. (You gotta do what you
gotta do). In Stage 4, we replace the corporate-owned fiber backbone
with a backbone of our own. We believe that this will be accomplished
via either a constellation of telecommunications satellites or the
construction of HF or Whitespace radios . This won't come cheap, but
as Patrick was saying, the upfront cost is all that we'll ever have to
pay. Satellite dishes or TV-Band towers would replace the pipes that
used to come from the ISP, and their connectivity could be distributed
throughout every digital village. The only cost that anyone would ever
have to pay for network access would be the cost of a mesh node (could
be integrated into a PC, or shareable stand alone). Not everyone will
be able to afford a node, which is why the roadmap doesn't end with
Stage 4.

Stage 5: A Human Right

Once the Mesh Interface for Network Devices is global, we can
focus our energies towards providing a node to anyone who wants one.
We believe that access to the network is a human right, and this is
our vision for supplying it to all of humanity.
A Few Notes:

A common counter-argument to this proposal is that mesh technologies
don't scale beyond a few thousand nodes. Our rebuttal is that they
won't have to. The federation of digital villages means that no single
mesh would have to grow larger than some optimal number. Furthermore,
there is reason to believe that mesh routing protocols will improve
rapidly in the near future. The wide release of B.A.T.M.A.N. will
provide for a significant improvement in performance of O.L.S.R. Just
because something hasn't been done doesn't mean that it can't. We just
need to focus our mental energies.
Let me know if you are interested in collaborating on projects that
further the end of network access as a human right. We are having a
conference call some time next week. There is a doodle poll here if
you want to vote on the time of the call:
a href="http://www.doodle.com/yxia8m9kzdmcwth6" target="_blank">http://www.doodle.com/yxia8m9kzdmcwth6>, and an etherpad to set the
agenda, here: a href="http://etherpad.openstewardship.net/muni-broadband" target="_blank">http://etherpad.openstewardship.net/muni-broadband>
I am happy to take a stab at any and all questions that pop up about
the roadmap, though I worry about my classwork. For now, I'm a college
student studying philosophy and computer science, which puts some
unfortunate constraints on my time. (Not to mention the parties).
So... this is our vision here at the Free Network Movement, and we
think it could become a reality in the not-too-distant future. We
don't yet have the expertise, resources, or manpower to bring all of
this to fruition, but then... perhaps that's where you come in.
I am dropping out of school to start a company called Nodal
Industries. We're going to build mesh nodes. I'd rather work together
than go it alone, so let me know if you're interested in working on a
I think what I love best about all this is that we *can't* do it by
ourselves. Only ourself can achieve this goal - that singular self of
our greater humanity.
Thanks for your time, and let me know what you think.

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