Exarcheia Net, a new wireless community network based in the Exarcheia neighborhood of Athens has set two goals: to bring internet access to refugee housing and solidarity projects and to develop neighborhood community wifi projects.

Calling for action to protect open wifi networks, the Pirate Party’s Julia Reda writes how collectively built-up, not-for-profit wireless networks like Freifunk provide Internet access to refugees, “allow[ing] them to get in touch with relatives and friends who may still be in their countries of origin, who may be fleeing themselves or have found refuge in other cities or other parts of Europe.” In the Exarcheia neighborhood of Athens, where activist-coordinated refugee solidarity groups support housing projects, there is a growing need for internet connectivity and regular maintenance. Working in a similar ethos, Exarcheia Net provides internet access and technical support to 10+ locations around Exarcheia – facilitating internet access for over 1,000 people.

Alongside this work, James Lewis, the initiator and facilitator of Exarcheia Net, is supporting community members in establishing cooperative networks. But the objectives of Exarcheia Net go beyond providing Internet connectivity to these places and include the following:

  • providing internet access and service infrastructure for grassroots institutions like cooperative and non-profits,
  • creating and maintaining associations to facilitate the sharing of Internet access among groups of people,
  • piloting and prototyping a new type of neighbourhood/district-level community network that includes physical spaces and regular face-to-face meetings for governance, training and engaging people, cultural activities, etc ,
  • demystification of technology and emancipation of citizens in building and operating their own technology infrastructures,
  • using locally-run services (e.g. secure messaging, file share, video streaming, internet radio)
  • organising ExarcheiaNet projects in a P2P way by facilitation rather than hierarchy and project management, building in peer-to-peer knowledge sharing peer to peer, and allowing networks to grow and connect to each other in an organic bottom-up method rather than ‘funded’ and top down.

Greece is home to a number of community network projects, each following their own governance model, such as Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network (AWMN), Sarantaporo.gr, and Wireless Thessaloniki. Community network projects bring with them lower data costs, often faster internet speeds than telecom-provided internet, and benefits of privately owned infrastructure such as privacy and locally run services.

From June 12-16, you can join Exarcheia Net for a series of workshops,  where Exarcheia residents will join in on a public introductory workshop and guests from Freifunk (Germany), Altermundi (Argentina), Guifi.net (Catalonia), Ninux (Italy) and OpenFreenet (India) will lead an open debate on building self-organized community networks at the neighborhood level.

Exarcheia Net is looking for more people interested in working  “hands-on” in community networking and setting up p2p infrastructure. To connect with Exarcheia Net, check out the Wiki or join a weekly meeting by contacting James Lewis: lewis.james at gmail dot com.  

Lead image “Le libraire d’Exarchia – Athènes, Grèce” by ActuaLitté, Flickr

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