netCommons: Network Infrastructure as Commons is an interdisciplinary EU Horizon 2020 project which looks into how community-based networking and communication services can complement or provide an alterative to the Internet’s existing dominant model.
The project brings together six partners: University of Westminster, University of Trento in Italy, Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) in Spain, CNRS in France, Athens University of Economics and Business in Greece, and Nethood in Switzerland.
Community networks (CNs) are computer networks that are built, owned, operated and managed by communities for communities as a common resource. They have been around for about two decades now. They often combine technological infrastructure with digital services.
CNs can advance Internet connectivity and in doing so contribute to the Digital Agenda for Europe. One key aspect that shapes CNs is policy. The EU is currently nearing the end of a two-year process revising its telecommunications policy framework (the Electronic Communications Code), ten years after the last revision. This represents an important opportunity for CNs to get recognition of their contribution and an enabling framework.
On 23 May 2018, three MEPs, namely Julia Reda, Jan Philipp Albrecht and Max Andersonn, organised an event at the European Parliament titled “Economic Landscape under the New Telecommunications Code: How will the New Co-investment Rules and New Obligations Affect Small Providers in the EU.”
The event brought together various stakeholder participants from EU institutions, regulators, the industry, small and community operators, and civil society.
Topics discussed included challenges concerning investment in high capacity Internet connectivity, whether the incentives currently under discussion allow competition and the operation of small and community providers, and obligations for small and community providers. Speakers included among others the University of Westminster’s Maria Michalis (CAMRI, WIAS) and representatives from the European Commission (DG CNET), the German broadband association (BREKO), the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), the community network Guifi.net in Catalonia , the EU Agency for Network and Information Security (Enisa), the small French provider Leonix, the trade body DigitalEurope, and Panayotis Antoniadis from Nethood (a netCommons research partner).
The event underlined the vital contribution that small and community providers can make to strengthen communication markets’ diversity and the establishment of high-capacity networks.
Maria Michalis summarises the event’s outcome: “It was very important to have the voice of small and community providers at the policy table, given the significant contributions they have been making to the telecommunications market and society more broadly. It is welcome that policy makers are becoming more aware of the presence and benefits that such providers bring. It is crucial that they continue to have a seat at the policy table.”
Cover image by Treehill [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons