Policy Recommendations For Sustaining Community Networks

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Open letter to EU policy makers on community networks – joint press release

March 16th, 2017: Today, more than 25 European Community Networks, joined by over 35 supporting organizations from around the world, are sending an open letter to EU policy-makers. At a time when the European Union is paving the way for a major reform of telecommunications policy, the letter makes a number of recommendations to ensure the continuous development of these citizen initiatives, which provide an alternative, democratic and sustainable way to manage telecom infrastructures and meet the goals of broadband policies.

Community Networks are network infrastructures built by local communities and organisations in a bottom-up and democratic way. Given the shortcomings of current telecom policies — such as the repeated failures of market actors to cover the communication needs of underprivileged populations both in rural and urban areas — CNs are being increasingly considered as an alternative way to provide affordable Internet access for all.

See, for instance, discussions at the Internet Governance Forum 2016. They actually offer much more than affordable Internet connectivity of superior quality, including citizen engagement, resiliency, education, innovation, and the basis for claiming our digital sovereignty over global corporations dominating the digital economy (the principles underlying these initiatives are summed up in the Guadalajara Declaration).

Especially in Europe, we are seeing a continuous growth of some of the most successful federated community networks in the world like Guifi.net, Freifunk.net, FFDN and many others. Yet, Community Networks have been systematically overlooked by policy-makers, and their values and models are being jeopardized by various policies. Today, CNs are asking for minimal and well-deserved support from policy-makers to be able to continue their activities.

This open letter is signed by dozens of European Community Networks, representing over hundred thousand active members, node owners, and serving even more individual citizens, SMEs, and organisations. It explains the different threats that those networks are facing and provides recommendations regarding the legal and policy frameworks that are appropriate for sustaining a diverse and democratic environment in the telecommunications sector. The letter will be sent to the European Commission, EU member states delegations as well as members of the European Parliament. We hope that these institutions will follow suit by showing willingness to engage in a debate over the policy items covered in the letter.