#Solutions: Greek community creates an off-the-grid Internet

from dailydot.com: In an effort to buck the expensive rates of unreliable corporate
telecom companies, a community in Athens, Greece has created its own
private Internet. 

Built from a network of wireless rooftop antennas, the Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network
(AWMN) now has more than 1,000 members. Data moves “through” the AWMN
mesh up to 30 times faster than it does on the telecom-provided

According to Mother Jones,
this off-the-grid community has become so popular in Athens and on
nearby islands that it has developed its own Craigslist-esque
classifieds service as well as blogs and an internal search engine.

“It’s like a whole other web,” AWMN user Joseph Bonicioli told the magazine. “It’s our network, but it’s also a playground.”

The AWMN began in 2002 in response to the poor Internet service
provided by traditional telecommunications companies in Athens. However,
the past few years have illustrated another use for these citizen-run
meshes: preserving the democratic values of the Internet.

As the Internet has become a ubiquitous presence in day-to-day life,
governments around the world have sought to control it. In 2011 for
example, when former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak found out that
protesters were organizing on Facebook, he commanded the country’s Internet service providers to shut down access, denying 17 million Egyptians access to the Web for days.

Later that year in the U.S., the city of San Francisco temporarily shut down cellphone service in its transit system to stop a protest. 

As Bonicioli told Mother Jones, “When you run your own network, nobody can shut it down.”

These DIY meshes are also used to provide Internet in places major
telecom companies can’t—or won’t—reach. For example, one was constructed
last year in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook after Hurricane
Sandy knocked out resident’s access to the networks of major Internet
service providers. 

Similarly, Guifi, the largest mesh in the world, was built to address spotty Internet service in rural Spain. It has over 21,000 members.

Meshes have taken on new relevance in the wake of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s leaks about the agency’s massive Internet surveillance programs.

It is estimated (albeit roughly) that the NSA touches as much as half
of the world’s Internet communications each day. The agency gains access
to much of this information through partnerships with telecom companies
that allow the agency to install splitters on their fibre optic
Internet cables. 

Privately run meshes would deny the NSA—and other
government intelligence agencies around the world—this access point to
Internet data.

As the New America Foundation’s Sascha Meinrath told Mother Jones, “We’re making infrastructure for anyone who wants to control their own network.

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