starting a network graphic

Introduction

Open community wireless networks digitally connect communities, and allow neighbors to share Internet access or use locally hosted applications. Neighbors are linked from rooftop to rooftop using wireless equipment.

Ownership and management duties are distributed among the community.

Community networks are built by a coalition of community anchor institutions, community-based organizations, municipal representatives, and individuals working together to plan, design, and deploy a network.

Digital Stewards are community members that take care of the network.

How does it work?

A network can distribute and share Internet access from one gateway.

Or, from multiple gateways.

A network can distribute local applications from one local server.

Or, from multiple servers.

What skills do we need?

Community wireless networks require many different skills. For example, artists and designers popularize the network, electricians and handy-people teach others how to mount routers on buildings, organizers talk to people about the network and hold public meetings, technogists create local applications, community members host equipment on the roof or in their window. Everyone has an important skill to offer.

Who has these skills in your community?

How do we get started?

Each network will have their own process, but these steps are an example of how you might get started:

  1. Identify Community Partners and Define Common Goals
    The essential step is to decide which partners will develop, plan and maintain the network.
  2. Outreach and Planning
    Surveys, community meetings, and transparent or participatory budgeting can ensure that the network gets local support. Manage expectations by presenting the project as a collaborative effort, not a free service.
  3. Plan the Network Together
    Plan the initial network to connect key locations in the community.
  4. Organize Digital Stewards to Manage the Network
    For long-term sustainability, think early on about who will handle maintenance and troubleshooting.
  5. Installation
    OTI has simple guides for installing Commotion software onto routers and mounting the routers onto rooftops.

Who do we partner with?

  • Public institutions (post offices, museums, schools, universities)
  • Public gathering spaces (parks, coffee shops)
  • Community-based organizations
  • Businesses
  • Municipal governments

Neighborhood Network Construction Kit

The Neighborhood Network Construction Kit includes activities you can use in your communities to help plan, build and govern the network together.

There is no one right way to move through the activities. You will find tools to help you organize with others in your neighborhood to plan, build, and promote the network. The modules are designed to be used by individuals and groups for self-guided learning or to teach workshops or trainings. Start to explore anywhere and let us know how it goes for you.