A Practical Navigator for the Internet Economy

Why Have a Network in the First Place?

Why do Americans seem to favor a mythic individualism rather than any form of social collectivism? America began as a nation that worshiped the myth of the power of the individual rather than any concept of the collective good. We developed as a nation of immigrants who settled a continent and whose heroes were those who pushed back the lonely frontier. Consequently, the development of America culture has been different from the cultures of Europe and Asia.    Our immediate cultural heritage and national character covers the nearly two and a half centuries of American independ- ence.    Families in the United States may have put down “roots” but the very short length of our history means that while we can trace roots back, at most four centuries, to the Mayflower, it is rather easy for families in Europe to go back well over a millennium. The difference between the two can be immense.

Meanwhile, The Enlightenment strongly influenced our founding political philosophy.    There the foundation of government was based not upon Divine Right but upon the citizen and the right of the citizen to overthrow the government, were it to be oppressive. The Bill of Rights at the time of its writing was uniquely American. “One Nation, under God, with a government by for and of the people.”    But examination of that sentence must also be tempered by the understanding that our heroes were frontiersmen. Daniel Boone, Paul Bunyan, Davey Crockett, Johnny Appleseed and, in the 19th Century, the rugged cowboy who used force-of-arms to protect his family from threat of “savage indians.”

When the Great Depression toppled our economy and Franklin Roosevelt saved our democracy with his social programs four decades of prosperity followed. The Republicans, as the party of industrial and financial capital and the privilege that went with economic success, had a serious problem. Af- ter Eisenhower was followed as by Nixon, who had to resign in disgrace, what would they do to find a winner in the presidential contest? When Ford failed to be re-elected they turned, in an age de- fined by the influence of television, to an actor. Ronald Reagan did not have a persuasive intellect but he knew how to be an actor and excelled at the role of the rugged TV cowboy on the American frontier.

In the 1970s American power was seriously questioned for the first time since World War II. The American economy, ever more dependent on oil, faced a situation where the oil came from places not friendly to our way of life.    Ronald Reagan was elected as a new American father figure    -- someone we could believe in. I argue that at precisely the wrong time in the development of in- dustrial capitalist, when the development of the ideas of FDR were more important than ever and more hated than ever by the Republican Party, Reagan ruled by telling the citizen that he or she was so good and so independent that the best course of action was to stand up to the corporate state by just taking your skills to an employer that would recognize your innate worth.    In other words, you too, can still play the role of the independent cowboy.

Considered over the past three decades, Reagan’s election was a disaster for the USA. The party of a by-gone day of power and privilege was in control deregulating everything in sight and pumping up the economy by deficit spending. Private interest was rapidly replacing the national and public interest. Media basked in the myth of the “bright shining city on a hilltop.” Government was cast as the enemy, the private citizen frontiersman was the hero, and the role of the political system was portrayed as “getting government off the backs of the private sector” which, not surprisingly, had only its own interests at heart.

Communism had been the great fear of the Cold War.    It was, of course, the precise opposite of American individualism.    Reagan was lucky enough to have the Soviet Union crumble under the weight of its own central planning as industrial goods had to rely more and more on the computer and integrated circuits that they did not possess in any quantity. Of course the Soviets also crum- bled, in part, because Reagan spent them into bankruptcy.    However by the time G.H.W. Bush, Reagan’s Vice-President, ran against George Dukakis, Reagan’s heritage was the one that appeared to say: individual self-interest was the way to go, along with financial deregulation - both of them directions that paved the way for the 2008 collapse.

To ignite the Occupy movement, it took the betrayal by Obama of his 2008 campaign for “hope and change” and the failure to get Washington in control of Wall Street. It seemed that the failure to re- regulate or even to prosecute the banks responsible stunned far too few people. By the election of 2012, the commercial internet had, for some 20 years, been transforming human communication and the development of knowledge on a global basis. What might have been a successful image of American culture as late as the 1950s, some 60 years later had shown itself to be unworkable. The rugged individuals of the 50s were on the way to becoming serfs of the one percent class for whom economic deregulation had proven to be a goldmine in every imaginable way.

The technology history of industrial capitalism, as written by Carlotta Perez and published in 2002, the year after the first Internet bubble collapsed, has made it clear our government has failed to force her prescribed rebalancing between financial capital and the broader interest of the citizens. In the past this rebalancing has led to what she called “Golden Ages.” While the Internet globally has become a new and critical enabling technology. In 2013 the USA is still rushing madly to place everything involving this technology over to the hands of very companies who are determined to milk it forever in order to preserve their old cash cows. I argue that every month we continue to do this, we cut our collective throats a little deeper. Yet impetus is a powerful force. Despite many signs that our unchanged course is a slow motion disaster in the making, we continue onward. At this point, I argue that looking to Washington for any kind of positive change is an exercise in futility.

There is, however, an extremely positive future course that we should take.    In keeping with our frontiersman image, we have always regarded ourselves as tinkerers and do-it-yourselfers. Every American youth seemed to regard their adolescent ability to make the family car run better as a mark of achievement. The digital revolution and proprietary systems as applied to cars have pretty much closed this possibility down. Therefore, new avenues are needed.

Much to his credit Dave Hughes, the Cursor Cowboy, recognized this as early as 1976.    I did not come across this man online until 1980, and met him in person for the first time only in 1981. However, in the early 1980s, as I got to know him well, I realized that he was quite possibly the first American to grasp well the possibilities of home-based businesses enabled by the BBS and then Internet technology. He spread this understanding by being a good story teller and capturing metaphorical images like “electronic cottages” and “digital homesteading.” Where some people see first the money-making possibilities of the new technology, The Colonel, as Hughes is also known, found social and emotional contexts in which to describe them. By 1991 he had grasped the idea that wireless would become very important.    After convincing me to start this newsletter, in late 1991, all I heard from him was “wireless.” I am skilled at connecting people and used these skills to bring him to the attention of Don Mitchell at the National Science Foundation.    Eight years of NSF funded projects followed, concluding in 2003 when he went to Namche Bazar, Nepal as a follow-up to my introduction to a Sherpa whom I had met in Nepal in 2002.

The Cursor Cowboy had always said that wireless would reign supreme one day. In the sense of a do-it-yourself personal technology, he was absolutely right. Guifi.net reminded me that officially it is technology agnostic, but because wireless was more accessible, Guifi.net became the culmina- tion of that technology, while all the time had intended to culminate with the use of fiber. Guifi.net emphasizes that its founding priority is really the network infrastructure as a user-owned Commons and at the earliest possible moment it must switch to fiber which it is already doing.    I agree at some point all networks need to include optical fiber, but because wireless technology is highly flexible, relatively easy to install, and not as subject to right-of-ways issues, wireless begins as the absolute foundation on which the networks we need will be built. We, the people, must build them and take back power we have seeded to global corporations.


This issue tells the rise of do-it-yourself wireless, which now the technology -- with another decade of Moore’s law pushing it as well as the internet uniting its advocates -- has become so good, and so powerful that small handfuls of people can quickly create very significant change. And note the plural: One person does not a network make. Many do-it-yourselfers become plural: Do- it-Ourselves (DIO).    I contend that DIY wireless, when brought to the USA, will have another major benefit. It needs a community as a foundation on which to grow and prosper. DIY wireless is vastly different from commercial internet because it will really work only with the creation of an information constituency behind it. It will become a powerful force here because its em- brace can ameliorate multiple problems.


DIY wireless will appeal to Americans as rugged tinkerers. It will unite local community interests, to grow local organizations doing the absolutely necessary tasks of keeping money and jobs local. Two centuries ago we would have communities holding their own barn raisings. Now communities can do the rough equivalent by building their own networks where DIO do-it-ourselves gives every participant ownership and a stake in the outcome.    Executed well, it can become the lever by which people wrest control over their lives and future from the smothering embrace of globalism, while they search for whether a reasonable balance between the two forces may exist.

In May 2013, to see it first hand and to understand in detail how guifi.net works and bring the workings back home, I and likely two or three other friends will go to Spain, and then to Catalonia .The mission will succeed because the philosophy behind guifi.net and the way in which it is organ- ized will become the requisite foundation in the USA for a future established on the political, social, and economic principles on which our nation was founded. I started this issue as a follow up to the progress of Isaac Wilder whom I met during the hopeful days of Occupy 2011 in New York City.

By chance Isaac asked whether I might also look at other networks, mentioning Buenos Aires, Bar- celona and Berlin.    He added that guifi.net was the largest. A few days later in early December, through another network contact from Catalonia, I found myself in the midst of as conversation with Ramon Roca - a guifi.net cofounder.

Setting this in a larger context, the following introduction will use Susan Crawford’s new book, Cap- tive Audience, to explain how we got into the mess in which we find ourselves. Next, Part One of this issue will be an in depth examination of guifi.net and its breath-taking tools. Then, Part Two looks at Isaac’s network in Kansas City.    As the result of my sharing drafts with Isaac, his group has rapidly gotten up to speed on guifi.net and is now undertaking the steps needed to join the world-wide guifi.net confederation. The issue will conclude with an essay by Jeff Michka explaining critical issues involved in transplanting guifi.net between two different cultures. The confluence of these developments here are extremely positive, and I hope powerful in the midst of an otherwise very bleak social and economic period.

This effort began with no prior goal other than to see what this network in Catalonia was all about and ascertain what, if any, lessons it held for what Isaac was trying to do. However, one thing led to another. When I saw how vast guifi.net had become, and that it was self-managing and sustain- ing, the light went on and I said to Isaac, “Hey, here is your proof of concept. What you are doing is not is not quixotic - it can be done.” The recognition there could be no top-down answer, thanks to Ramon’s willingness to guide us, led to an understanding of the modular character along with the knowledge of the concept of the Commons as platform. It led to a realization. Here was a group of Catalonians who seemed to have built a working solution to the problems that have eluded us. Consequently, in the last days of January it became clear to me and my colleagues that we must do it OURSELVES.

Suddenly we realized a workable solution had developed along Spain’s Mediterranean coast.    The bottom up model it rested on was a perfect fit for our needs and goals. Why not visit and find out everything about how it works and bring the ideas back here?    Then, during the past few days, there was an added fortuitous leap. With no advanced planning on my part, I had developed such a detailed description of guifi.net, that it seemed almost like a virtual visit. No longer, “let’s get three or four people together go there, study further and bring back a description with the hope that the sale would be made.,” it appears that a small group of like-minded people acting autono- mously can reach a shared conclusion and shave many months off the time it would take a larger group to decide.

Consequently, this short book is only the beginning of the coverage of guifi.net I intend to compile during the rest of 2013.

To encourage the start up of nodes in the US, The COOK Report will produce a handbook on how it functions and is governed. In the sense of the ideas of Michel Bauwens and the P2P Foundation, guifi.net is an idea whose time has come. Get the right people together who recognize the problem and a solution can self-organize

Why have a network?    On the American side of the pond it is to bring people together who have been isolated and then abandoned by industrial capitalism enabling them to establish common goals for the community in which they live.

 

Contents

Executive Summary
Why Have a Network in the First Place?
p. 5
Introduction
Why the people must take back the Internet                                             Communications and Speech
Taking back Internet access and control in Spain and the USA         p.10
Eighty Years Ago Public Interest Demanded Universal Access          p.10
How We Got into This Mess
& Why We must Build the People’s Network Ourselves            p. 11
Why a Government By and For the One Percent?            p. 21

Part One: guifi.net
Do It yourself Commons Infrastructure in Spain

A Bottom-Up Confederation
As an Organizational Framework for User-built
Telecommunication Systems                               p. 25
Guifi Net: The Beginnings                    p. 28
Work in the Spanish Countryside Demanded Broadband             p. 28
Serious Work on guifi.net Begins in 2000-2001            p. 31
Taking an Expansive Point of View -
Looking for a Partner Building the Commons                    p. 33
What Top Down Broadband Looked Like –
Telefonica in Complete Charge                                p. 36
Fiber Becomes Mandatory -- and the
Importance of the guifi.net Foundation                    p. 38
Understanding How guifi.net Has Grown                    p.  43
GURB Nord Project Phase 1 2009                        p. 46
Description of the First Section of Fiber in Gurb (FFTF)                 p. 49
Joining guifi.net in Three Steps                            p. 51
Use of Google Maps for Virtual Network Planning            p. 55
Growth in Valencia Region                                p. 58
Local Groups                                            p. 61
Gurb  Zone                                            p. 63
The Three Pillars                                        p. 70
The Supply Chain                                        p. 71
C4EU Kick off                                            p. 72
Business Terms: GURB Nord Project Phase 1 2009            p. 77
LocalRet - Good Intentions Go Astray                    p. 84
Network Architectural Building Tools                    p. 88
Adding Zones and Nodes in North America            p. 94
Treasures Everywhere                                    p.105
Network Governance
The Commons License                                    p.108


Part Two: The Free Network Foundation
DIY Commons Infrastructure in the US


Free Network Foundation Launches Kansas City FreeNet
A Continuing Report May 2012 through January 2013            p.112
The Kansas City Experience                                p.113
But Why Are We Doing This?                                     p.117
The Commons and Community Ownership:
Understanding the “Free” in FreeNetwork                             p.117
What Is Different about the Free Network  Architecture?            p.119
The Co-operative:  Legal and Physical Structures                p.119
The FreedomCenter                                        p.127
Envisioning Emergence                                    p.129
Making Headway by Building a Community                              p.133

It Must Be Done
A Summary and Credo by Isaac Wilder                    p.142

Breaking News:
The Free Network Foundation to Join Forces with guifi.net    p.145

Conclusion
Not an End but a New Beginning  by Jeff Michka                 p.146

We’ve got the Tools and Talent:  We Are Not Alone                p.148
Wouldn’t it be Far Better to Say “Do It Ourselves?”                p.149
Taking Time                                            p.151
Dave Hughes, the “Cursor Cowboy” Comments on  February 1, 2013    p.153