This November-December COOK Report explores the free network movement literally across continents and hemispheres – from agrarian villages nestled among the foothills of the Pyrenees to urban inner-city neighborhoods in America’s Heartland. As a follow on to the March April 2013 exploration of guifi.net and Isaac Wilder’s Kansas City work, it looks at these networks as part of a global movement – one where the builders are collaborating on a national and international level. These builders work together and share their tools and code. Nothing proprietary here. They don’t seek wealth. They do seek to do for the communities in which they live what, “free market” based capitalism has failed to do. They are a bright hope for a future that, if one is not a part of the ruling elite, looks increasingly dim.
These networks of course are not free of cost – nothing is. But they stand for the freedom of users to create and build their own telecommunications infrastructure and to say “no” to the extractive model of shareholder-owned, restrictive and predatory telecommunications firms that have no interest in their customers other than extracting money and sending it to far off financial centers. Furthermore, they display no interest in innovation because when backed by regulatory capture on behalf of their extractive business model they have no need to care about innovation. Because, with monopoly models, they have no need to compete.
By way of contrast, the Free Networks emerging in the shadows of the granddaddy of them guifi.net in Catalonia Spain are models, not only of technology and economic innovation, but also of full scale collaboration among the members of the communities in which they grow. As the West marches blithely on towards the next economic collapse, the communities that survive outside of a centralized neo-feudal surveillance state will do so because they take matters like telecommunications into their own hands. It is the intent of this issue to show how this very basic, boot strap development is being done in North America, South America, and Europe. The goal here is large and very basic. It is the right of every community to define and then build the infrastructure on which its economic political and social self-determination depends. It is no longer just “internet” – it is far more basic…
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