International bid to protect free networks from telecom firms

March 21, 2003

An international group of computer scientists has launched a framework for the legal protection of free community broadband wireless networks to prevent predatory moves by telecommunications carriers and equipment producers.

The education community could save hundreds of millions of euros by building and running free Wireless in Local Area Networks (WLANS), according to the recent Copenhagen Interpolation free-networking event.

"To build your own WLAN with free Linux software costs 10 per cent of a commercial tender. This revolutionises information provision and exchange, particularly in developing countries with poor electricity supply," said Sebastian Buttrich, co-founder with Tomas Krag of NGO, which hosted the event.

"Telecom companies face billions in 3G licence debts, and revenue threats from free coms on cheap WLANS. They will tell institutions, who can save millions by building their own networks, to use the professionals and add a number of zeros to the price," Mr Krag said.

The importance of the simple, "picopeering" legal framework is that academic and small businesses must move fast to ensure enough "voters" are on wireless to prevent telecoms carriers pushing government into retroactive legislation to protect carrier revenues.

The legal framework will be passed to Yoshio Utsumi, secretary-general of the United Nations' International Telecommunication Union, which coordinates global radio standards and which will hold the World Summit on the Information Society in December in Geneva.

Some large Danish WLANS are about to link up their free networks, in a strategy that UK college clusters could copy.


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