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Wireless community mesh networks: fresh connectivity for 7 billion people

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Internet is for everyone (RFC 3271), and as Vint Cerf says “it won’t be if it isn’t affordable by all that wish to partake of its services’’. Global access to Internet for everybody requires not only the increase of the service availability, but also a dramatic reduction of its cost, especially in geographies and populations with low penetration (e.g., rural and underserved communities). The Internet, unlike the acoustic space, is an artificial infrastructure that requires for the magic of communication some artificial digital devices. There are different models to achieve this: mobile devices and mobile operators, telecom providers with cables or fibre. Different models may be required to serve a widely diverse global population. We discuss the case of community networks, crowdsourced networks built by citizens, that contribute and coordinate their own network devices to create a shared network infrastructure. These networks have a governance based on the principles of common-pool resources (E. Ostrom) to preserve the local connectivity as a key resource for the community. There are successful examples around the world based on diverse technologies: optical fibre, GSM , but we will focus on wireless mesh networks. We will show their characteristics, and explore several key challenges, solutions and research questions that have to do with affordability, performance, scalability, resilience, sustainability, governance.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Wednesday Seminars series.

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