8.2 Universal Wireless

The community wireless networking bug isn't constrained to the U.S. Networking projects in dozens of countries are now online, with more joining in every day. Here are just a few of the international efforts underway:

8.2.1 BC Wireless

Founder: Matthew Asham
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Project started: December 2000
URL: http://bcwireless.net/

BC Wireless focuses on showing consumers how to use license-exempt technology to connect themselves with other people. This ranges from answering simple questions about 802.11b to talking about wide-scale infrastructural networking. Much like BAWUG, the BC Wireless project itself isn't really a networking project. BC Wireless is more of a resource used by its members as a reference tool. Many members of BC Wireless work on projects independently of each other.

BC Wireless's particular focus is to bridge the digital divide that separates network hackers from the average person. They want to help people learn to effectively use technology for themselves and to embrace it, rather than to be afraid of it. They are working with the local public school system to help children learn networking skills, particularly in impoverished communities where money and education are scarce.

They are also actively working on documentation and software for average users, to help assist people in setting up their own web sites and home networks.

8.2.2 Consume

Founders: Simon Anderson, Ben Laurie, Adam Laurie, Julian Priest, and James Stevens
Location: London, England
Project started: August 2000
URL: http://www.consume.net/

Consume the Net! Consume is "a collaborative strategy for the self provision of a broadband telecommunications infrastructure." They are building a free network in England, and to that end they host extensive FAQs, provide mailing lists, and even have their own online node database. Much like the SeattleWireless effort, Consume is building a wireless infrastructure independent of the local monopoly-held wired network.

8.2.3 Melbourne Wireless

Founders: Steven Haigh, Glen Brunning, and Drew Ulricksen
Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Project started: June 2000
URL: http://melbourne.wireless.org.au

Melbourne Wireless, Inc. is a not-for-profit group aiming to establish a fast, free, metropolitan area wireless network based on existing off-the-shelf 802.11-based equipment.

Melbourne Wireless lists over 1,200 nodes under way in their LocFinder database, of which 225 are active as of this writing. They hold regular monthly meetings and host the usual assortment of online resources (including FAQs, news, and mailing lists).

8.2.4 RedLibre

Founder: Jaime Robles
Location: Madrid, Spain
Project started: September 2001
URL: http://www.redlibre.net/

RedLibre was the first wireless group in Spain. They are an organizational group that helps coordinate people and resources with various local community wireless groups throughout Spain. RedLibre had a national meeting in December, 2002 and met with representatives from 15 local wireless groups. Through their coordination, Spain has an exceptionally well-developed wireless community presence.

The RedLibre network has active free wireless nodes in five cities throughout Spain. They have over 1,100 registered users and more than 500 people subscribe to their mailing lists.

8.2.5 Wireless Leiden

Founders: Jasper Koolhaas, Marten Vijn, Evert Verduin, Johan de Stigter, and Rudi van Drunen
Location: Leiden, Netherlands
Project started: September 2001
URL: http://www.wirelessleiden.nl/

The town of Leiden (in the West Netherlands) has had a particularly successful community network project, involving local government, businesses, and private individuals. From their web site:

In this group of enthusiastic and knowledgeable professional volunteers who wanted to experiment with wireless connections, the ambition of developing a non-commercial, fast and open (for everyone, also commercial enterprises) network has emerged. Anyone cooperating with the group will be having access to an extremely fast network, even capable of sharing high-quality audio, video or TV images. In the starting phase the group was working on the technology trying to answer the question: "can it be done?" Now the answer is "Yes," proof-of-concept has been delivered.

What started as a hobbyist project in September of 2001 has evolved into a nonprofit foundation with over 300 active users. Wireless Leiden is a terrific example of how commercial enterprises can benefit from free networks. Employees frequently use the public infrastructure to telecommute to work, using encrypted tunnels to keep their traffic secure. Through cooperation with local schools, churches, and businesses, Wireless Leiden has built one of the most advanced free networks on the planet.