Below the surface, where policy makers rarely go, live the community wireless networkers. They don’t have billions in capitalization, they don’t lay miles of fiber, and they don’t have spectrum licenses. Heck, most aren’t even commercial organizations. Many of them are collections of volunteers, or non-profit organizations. The commercial ones are usually small businesses, embedded in their comunities, trying a run a business in a responsible manner rather than dreaming of huge IPOs.
But the community wireless networks (CWN) change people’s lives every day. They bring broadband connectivity to neighborhoods that can’t afford it and the rural areas that the big boys ignore. They are the development lab of innovation for networking. From open source mesh to solar powered transmitters to “cantenna”-type reuse and recycling of available parts, you can find folks playing with these in community wireless networks.
The Third International Summit for Community Wireless will take place in Columbia, MD at Loyolla Colege on May 18-20. It represents an unparalleled oppotunity to find out what is going on not just here in the U.S., but in other countries as well. This is the place to find out how people confronting the “digital divide” in the trenches are finding solutions in places that the largest companies don’t want to service. Whether it’s how to keep cows from knocking down your towers or how to make sure a local project stays local and sustainable, you’ll find people talking about it here.
I plan to be there. I know a lot of great people listed in the press release reproduced below plan to come as well. If you’re smart, you will as well.
Stay tuned . . . .
INTERNATIONAL SUMMIT TO ADDRESS FUTURE OF BROADBAND
— Community Technology Leaders from Six Continents to Participate —
Champaign-Urbana, I.L., April 18 — The CUWiN Foundation and the Center for Community Informatics (CCI) will host the International Summit for Community Wireless Networks (http://WirelessSummit.org) from May 18-20, 2007 at Loyola College in Columbia, Maryland.
The summit is the largest gathering of wireless network developers, technology and policy experts, and community organizers working to build universal, low-cost broadband networks around the world. “We are proud to host an event that brings together technologists and activists committed to universal access to informatics,” said Marco Figueiredo, CCI Director.
“The International Summit for Community Wireless Networks explores the opportunities and challenges facing the growing movement to build community and municipal broadband networks,” said Sascha Meinrath, co-founder and Executive Director of CUWiN. “This event showcases cutting-edge technologies and develops political strategies to increase digital inclusion.”
Since the first National Summit for Community Wireless Networks in 2004, over 300 Community Internet and municipal broadband projects have sprung up in the United States alone. The Summit will focus on how these networks can better serve their target populations, the policies needed to support broader deployment of community wireless systems, and the latest technological and software innovations.
Presenters at previous summits have included FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, Jim Baller of the Baller Herbst Law Group, Annie Collins of Fiber for Our Future, Mark Cooper of the Consumer Federation of America, Harold Feld of Media Access Project, Robert W. McChesney of Free Press, Matt Rantanen of Tribal Digital Village, Greg Richardson of Civitium LLC, Paul Smith of the Center for Neighborhood Technologies, Jim Snider of the New America Foundation, Dana Spiegel of NYCwireless, Esme Vos of Muniwireless.com and many other luminaries.
“High-speed broadband access is the electricity of the 21st century, yet many rural and poorer urban communities are being left off the grid,” said Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, the DC-based policy think-tank. “The innovators and organizers at the International Summit for Community Wireless Networks are blazing the trail to make broadband affordable and available to everyone.”
About CUWiN (http://www.cuwin.net)
The CUWiN Foundation is a world-renowned coalition of wireless developers and community volunteers committed to providing low-cost, do-it-yourself, community-controlled alternatives to contemporary broadband models. CUWiN is fiscally sponsored by Grassroots.org, a non-profit 501c3. CUWiN’s mission is to develop decentralized, community-owned networks that foster democratic cultures and local content. Through advocacy and through our commitment to open source technology, CUWiN supports organic networks that grow to meet the needs of their communities.
About CCI (http://cci.cs.loyola.edu)
The Center for Community Informatics engages Loyola College’s students, faculty and staff in supporting the creation and deployment of informatics tools for community empowerment. CCI develops the Community Telecenter Free Software Toolset; promotes awareness events for the Loyola College community; offer courses in Community Informatics; promotes Digital Inclusion Conferences; researches and develops human-friendly technologies to facilitate inclusion in the New Society of Knowledge; and, evaluates, documents and develops sustainable models for Universal Access to Informatics.