Wireless commons against the digital divide

TitleWireless commons against the digital divide
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsM. Oliver, J. Zuidweg, and M. Batikas
Conference NameIEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society ISTAS2010
Date Published06/2010
Conference LocationAustralia
Keywordscommunity wireless networks, wifi, wireless commons

Guifi is a community-based telecommunications network that originated in a rural area of the Spanish region of Catalonia. Guifi primarily uses unlicensed spectrum for its communications links, and its users create network nodes on a volunteer basis from state-ofthe-art yet inexpensive off-the-shelf WiFi equipment. Guifi’s self-organizing community is governed by a Wireless Commons charter that views unlicensed spectrum as a public asset, which means that Guifi satisfies the definition of both an open Commons (an open network with free access) and a closed Commons (a self regulating community with a well defined charter). This article identifies key factors for the exponential growth and success of the WiFi network, which has put some rural areas in Catalonia well above European average for broadband penetration. Moreover, this article identifies the threats that Guifi faces as both an open and closed Commons, and explores what Guifi does or should do to mitigate them. These threats are referred to in literature as the “Tragedy of the Commons”. Finally, the article also considers possible consequences of Guifi’s intentions to expand its network with fiber connections.