A Practical Navigator for the Internet Economy


Enabling the Network Commons
Guifi Net’s Singular Achievement and a Kansas City Jazz Postscript

Executive Summary

After an absence of 18 months, we return to the examination of guifinet that we begin two years ago.  Since then this remarkable self-organizing enterprise has grown by 50% from 18,000 to more than 27,000 nodes. guifinet is one of those achievements where the practitioners never stop to elaborate on the actions that they have undertaken, often by trial and error, and where they just continue to build. This seems to be an inevitable and not too surprising trait that leaves those of us who would like to spread a much broader understanding of what they are doing frustrated.  There is always much more to do than there is time to explain what is being done.

In the rest of the world the emerging alternatives are not pleasant to contemplate. A duopoly in the US that would like to become a monopoly.  Given the global geo-political situation there is also a tendency of the largest so called service providers to blur the boundaries of what they do with the national security services in each country.  In such a situation, what guifinet has achieved is all the more admirable and important.

Its founder and principal leader Ramon Roca has overseen and guided its transition from what one might describe as a hobbyist effort among various extremely knowledgeable people who, in the absence of commercial service, decided that the only viable future was to build their own networks.   These people have done so and, in the area of Osona County, where it all began, they have journeyed from a small-scale curiosity to a larger scale infrastructure on which a significant part of the local economy now depends.  The critical question has always been how to use collaboration and teamwork to build a community owned infrastructure will that would run with the maximum efficiency derived from a minimum amount of labor invested early on when the building of the network was only a sideline rather than their major economic activity.  

We are  looking at the organization and  maintenance of something founded on the shared principles of the commons or what Elinor Ostrom calls a “common pool resource.”  The network infrastructure is  an enabling environment shared by its users who are co-dependent on each other for the long term development and ability of what they have created to prosper.  Like the electric grid, water works, or highway system, the shared communications network functions a basic infrastructure necessary to a competitive economy in the age of the Internet.  The guifinet founders had something like a utility in mind not something that they would own control and manipulate for personal profit.   Having started  between about 2002 and 20O4  the founders created the guifinet Foundation in 2008 and vested legal ownership of the network infrastructure in the Foundation.  This became the legal basis of a infrastructure that could be shared and invested in by all who used it.   Its purpose was to offer some assurance that the infrastructure built by the community could not be stolen by an outside “investor.”

As the Network Grows Business Opportunity Emerges

New forms of business opportunity began to appear as a byproduct of the labor of the early network builders.  Once the network reached the penetration of the few thousand nodes in Osona County, offering connectivity services to the more general non-technical population presented an attractive opportunity. People began to understand that the few hours service needed to install radios for a friend and get that friend on the network could become a full-time business of building new infrastructure and new network connections for the general public.

With the foundation in place, local community self-reliance continued to serve as a motivating factor and the network grew by another seven or 8000 nodes including eventually the successful transplanting of the network to the Castellon area of Valencia Spain 100 miles or so south west of Catalonia.  Here the original board accepted the invitation of a local university professor to come for a visit and show him how to build his own local branches of the larger network. The investment was hugely successful but by the time of my visit two years ago Ramon understood that for the network to be able to continue to scale he had to rely on a more formalized plan of operation and  that a governing structure had to be put into place.  In other words there needed to be a framework in which people agreed to cooperate and collaborate with the same kind of maximum autonomy had permitted guifinet, in the first place, to grow in a decentralized organic fashion without a cumbersome top-down infrastructure.  

This issue shows how he achieved such a framework by starting in Osona County where the network began and where since it was already the location of perhaps 40% of its total infrastructure, he was able to establish a series of contracts with companies who either were providing services or desired in the future to provide network management services in that County.  As the following pages show, these commercial service providers agreed to cooperate with the Foundation in such a way that they made public their operating and capital expenditures and were reimbursed if they contributed more to the preservation of the Commons infrastructure of the network than their competitors.

The goal was to enable competing commercial companies to be able to use and expand the Commons infrastructure in a fair and equitable manner such that one participant could never gain an advantage over its competitors by shortchanging investment in the maintenance of the infrastructure on which they all depended.

The network is run as a commercial nonprofit business that allows maximum service at minimal cost to its customers. One of the benefits of these developments is that the first time the foundation in achieving legal contracts with network suppliers formally known as guifi net professionals has a reliable and more stable source of income founded on an overhead fee of 10% of each network supplier's investment in OpEx and CapEx.   All parties involved in are publicly disclosing these expenses to each other and the foundation.  The details of how this works are disclosed in this issue in the interview that follows with Ramon Roca and a series of follow-up questions with Roger Baig.

The foundation has now a years worth of contractual experience with four providers in Osona County and six months worth of experience with two providers in a second county  Plus In 2015 in three  additional Counties, it has signed up additional service providers with the goal of expanding what it has built in Osama to guifinet communities throughout the Iberian Peninsula as they become mature enough to enter into the new agreements. We see this as an absolutely remarkable  achievement one that should allow the guifinet organization to continue to scale without limit.

The agreements are complex and being put into practice in stages. Thanks to a generous donation of Roger’s time this article goes beyond what is publicly available on the guifinet website using spreadsheets that are the current means for monetary settlements between the foundation and providers but are not documented yet in public.

This documentation issue is one thing we find frustrating about guifnet.   Its inner workings are documented, but only to the extent that the parties involved can find the time to do so, and when they are documented it is of course in Catalan rather than English and therefore it is not readily available to the rest of the world.  Here is what Roger said when I asked him about this.

COOK Report: What is the size of the audience for people who really would like to know in great detail how your Commons solution works? For example, if a person is Catalan as opposed to English speaking?  Is there really a compensation solution available on the web in Catalan?

Roger Baig: No. There are very few people working on this, some of them as volunteers. We are always overloaded in real life and, unfortunately, documentation is usually one of the many things that are left unattended. Help is always welcome. Many many people have given us advice what we should do, what we should take into account, what we should improve, but unfortunately nearly zero have ever taken any step forward and even less have done any thing useful.

Anita Dixon with Access to Skype Reaches out to the Ben Webster Foundation

In an interview Anita relates what access to Skype enabled her to do with Ben Webster Foundation in Copenhagen.   In eloquent terms, she explains why she does not fit into the white establishment pecking order of Kansas City and explains how she came to understand why, when many American jazz greats visited Europe, they never returned.

Anita explained how the visit to Copenhagen occurred.  She and Henrik Wolsgaard Iverson, the Chairman of the Ben Webster foundation had developed a warm friendship with each other via Skype calls but until the jazz bloggers tour last June there was no money that could support travel.  Anita in our interview said:  At the bloggers tour you attended here in June there was a small black guy named Ron Scott.  He was the guy who made it possible for me to come to Denmark. He works for the Amsterdam News and about six weeks after the bloggers conference he sent me a $1500 contribution.  The web adds Ron Scott writes a weekly column “Jazz Notes” for the Amsterdam News. He is the senior editor of “Forever Harlem,” (Starlight Press L.L.C., 2006), a pictorial history of Harlem from 1896-2006. [His many other achievements are high lighted at the above link.]

Anita continues: This was my first real international trip. And it was life affirming and life changing because I didn't know how much prejudice I lived under and how much stress I lived under until I was there and everyone accepted me and no-one looked at me crazy and pulled their purse closer to them when you got on the bus. So this is my impression of this world that gives so much to the music that my people created.  They looked upon me as a genius contributor because I was both a preservationist of  this music and was black.  A double plus for them which made their reaching out to me authentic. I no longer had to wrestle with my presence in the music my people created. . . . .

The consumerism negates the ability for us to perpetuate jazz as an economic tool – you dig? It’s now who can pay back the most bills and come up with those student loans.  Among the elite the expectation is to spend $200,000 or more on a jazz education, emerge burdened with student loans that are unmanageable and then play $50 gigs. But here they grew up with jazz.  It is not a commodity to be purchased. The museums are free.  The music Expos are free. Your education is free.  Your health care is free.


Construction Permit for LP FM Station Granted

COOK Report: And, most important of all, on January 20, 2015 she received her construction permit for  a low power FM station for the Three Square Miles of the historic jazz district.


Withdrawl of any and all  Implied COOK Report Endorsment of Free Network Foundation as of Feb 1, 2015

Up to this point in time I have been  a huge supporter of Isaac Wilder's FNF.   I am no longer since, in October he turned the Directorship over to Charles Wyble.  I discovered today that I  am listed on his Board of Advisors [ https://thefnf.org/people/ ] scroll down.  I never requested to be so listed and I  have asked to be removed.  A request that was answered by Wyble: The indignity! LoL.  Isaac finally responded by removing me from the advisors and deleting Charles and his executive team from the people section of the web site.  This comes about 8 weeks after he told me it happened. It would be good to see Isaac actually listing himself again as Executive Director again. And if the project is on "hiatus" the site ought to say so.  Meanwhile wishing you all good luck Isaac.





Executive summary                                     p. 3
Enabling the guifi.net Commons!                            p. 6
Introduction How Does guifi-net Grow?                        p. 6
What and Where the Network Is                                p. 7
Business Context of the guifinet Ecosystem                    p.13
How We Provide Governance for Shared Use of the Commons!          p.18
Keeping a Public Record of Contributions to the Commons            p. 26
Roger Baig Provides Additional Detail on Interconnection             p. 32
The San Francisco Meetings                                p. 37
A Local Internet Exchange and Access to Fiber                            p. 38
Appendix                                                 p. 42
Using Internet to Connect Kansas City Jazz to the Rest of World p.46
Anita Dixon Goes to Denmark                                p.47
A Life Changing Experience!                                    p.50
Kansas City is Squandering its History                            p.55
A Big Win for Historic Kansas City!
FCC Grants Low Power FM Construction Permit for Mutual Musicians            p.57
What Counts? Kauffman’s View of Entreprenurship compared to MIT’s View and William Wells aSTEAM Village!                            p. 63    
To Return Back to William Wells                             p.69
Let’s see what MIT has to Say about Entrepreneurship               p.74
Postscript Thursday January 29, 2015                            p.77