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Setting up a Wi-Fi connection

Wireless community networks (WCNs) or wireless community projects are the organizations that attempt to take a grassroots approach to providing a viable alternative to municipal wireless networks for consumers.[1]

Because of evolving technology and locales, there are at least four different types of solution:

  • Cluster: Advocacy groups which simply encourage sharing of unmetered internet bandwidth via Wi-Fi, may also index nodes, suggest uniform SSID (for low-quality roaming), supply equipment, DNS services, etc.
  • Mesh: Technology groups which coordinate building a mesh network to provide Wi-Fi access to the internet
  • WISP: A mesh that forwards all traffic back to consolidated link aggregation point(s) that have centralized access to the internet
  • WUG: A wireless user group run by wireless enthusiasts. An open network not used for the reselling of internet. Running a combination of various off the shelf WIFI hardware running in the license free ISM bands 2.4 GHz/5.8 GHz

Certain countries regulate the selling of internet access, requiring a license to sell internet access over a wireless network. In South Africa it is regulated by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA).[2] They require that WISP's apply for a VANS or ECNS/ECS license before being allowed to resell internet access over a wireless link.

The cluster and mesh approaches are more common but rely primarily on the sharing of unmetered residential and business DSL and cable Internet. This sort of usage might be non-compliant with the Terms of Service (ToS) of the typical local providers that deliver their service via the consumer phone and cable duopoly. Wireless community network sometimes advocate complete freedom from censorship, and this position may be at odds with the Acceptable Use Policies of some commercial services used. Some ISPs do allow sharing or reselling of bandwidth.[3]



These projects are in many senses an evolution of amateur radio, and more specifically packet radio, as well as an outgrowth of the free software community (which in itself substantially overlaps with amateur radio)[citation needed]. The key to using standard wireless networking devices designed for short-range use for multi-kilometre Long Range Wi-Fi linkups is the use of high-gain directional antennas. Rather than purchasing commercially available units, such groups sometimes advocate homebuilt antenna construction. Examples include the cantenna, which is typically constructed from a Pringles potato chip can, and RONJA, an optical link that can be made from a smoke flue and LEDs, with circuitry and instructions released under the GFDL. As with other wireless mesh networks, three distinct generations of mesh networks are used in wireless community networks.[4][5] In particular, in the 2004 timeframe, some mesh projects suffered poor performance when scaled up.[6][7]


Organizationally, a wireless community network requires either a set of affordable commercial technical solutions or a critical mass of hobbyists willing to tinker to maintain operations. Mesh networks require that a high level of community participation and commitment be maintained for the network to be viable. The mesh approach currently requires uniform equipment. One market-driven aspect of the mesh approach is that users who receive a weak mesh signal can often convert it to a strong signal by obtaining and operating a repeater node, thus extending the mesh network.

Such volunteer organizations focusing in technology that is rapidly advancing sometimes have schisms and mergers.[citation needed] The Wi-Fi service provided by such groups is usually free and without the stigma of piggybacking. An alternative to the voluntary model is to use a co-operative structure.[8]

People's Open NetworkEdit

People's Open Network is a community wireless mesh network being built by a local volunteer group, Sudo Mesh, based in Oakland, California.[9] It is a project of the Sudo Room hackerspace.[10][11][12] As of 2017, there were more than 50 network nodes functioning across Oakland.[13] Founders of the People's Open Network want to give more people access to better and cheaper communication tools while creating platforms for locally relevant and decentralized web applications.[14]

Community members can join the network by purchasing an internet router and installing open-source firmware on the device. Once plugged in, the router can connect to the active mesh network and double as a hotspot that automatically connects with others in range. The group even runs educational workshops to spread awareness and help the public learn to create their own mesh networking solutions.[15]

Matt Senate, one of the founders of Sudo Room, told Tech President in 2014 that Sudo Mesh is “building and growing a network run by and for the community." Senate explained that Occupy Oakland offered a new style of governance and that the People’s Open Network was building that community ethos into the telecommunications infrastructure.

Jenny Ryan, a cyberanthropologist, free culture advocate, and one of the original members of the Sudo Mesh team, noted the East Bay has long nourished a particularly radical streak, largely at odds with authority. She told Tech President that Oakland “building a community-owned telecommunications infrastructure is one piece to the larger picture of building autonomy and people power.” [16]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Morteza M. Zanjireh; Hadi Larijani (May 2015). A Survey on Centralised and Distributed Clustering Routing Algorithms for WSNs (PDF). Conference: IEEE 81st Vehicular Technology Conference: VTC2015-Spring. Glasgow, Scotland. pp. 1–6. doi:10.1109/VTCSpring.2015.7145650.
  2. ^ OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Develop (July 24, 2008). OECD Economic Surveys: South Africa 2008: South Africa - Economic Assessment. OECD Publishing. p. 103. ISBN 978-92-64-04692-4.
  3. ^ Wireless-Friendly ISPSs Electronic Frontier Foundation accessed 4 May 2011
  4. ^ Talkin' 'bout my generation November 16, 2006
  5. ^ Free Culture, Free Software, Free Infrastructures!, Interviews with Klohjschi, Jürgen Neumann (Freifunk Germany), Kurt Jansson (Wikimedia Germany), Rishab Aiyer Ghosh (United Nations University), Lawrence Lessig (Creative Commons), Allison, Benoit (Montréal Wireless Community) October 18, 2006
  6. ^ Analysis of Mesh Architectures December 8, 2004
  7. ^ Ugly truth about mesh networks June 28, 2004
  8. ^ Easier said than done: Second thoughts about municipal Wi-Fi May 25th 2007
  9. ^ "Welcome to the People's Open Network". Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  10. ^ "Mesh Network - Oakland - LocalWiki". Retrieved 2018-02-18.
  11. ^ Peters, Adele (2017-12-19). "Want To Guarantee Net Neutrality? Join Peer-To-Peer, Community-Run Internet". Fast Company. Retrieved 2018-02-11.
  12. ^ Kalish, Jon (2017-05-09). "How a Retired Nurse Provides Her Small Vt. Town With Internet". PC Mag. Retrieved 2018-02-11.
  13. ^ "How a Retired Nurse Provides Her Small Vt. Town With Internet". PCMAG. Retrieved 2018-02-18.
  14. ^ "Marc Juul, People's Open Network | The Pollination Project". The Pollination Project. 2014-02-21. Retrieved 2018-02-18.
  15. ^ "Mesh Networking - Is This the Beginning of a New Kind of Net Neutrality?". MOBI. 2018-01-05. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  16. ^ "Oakland's Sudo Mesh Looks to Counter Censorship and Digital Divide With a Mesh Network". TechPresident. Retrieved 2018-02-18.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit