Ever thought about a completely free Internet? Today the world-wide web we know is built out of a humongous enterprise of infrastructure which include the satellites that float in space and the polymer cables that run along the deep trenches of the ocean floor to transmit data packets from one corner to another corner of our world. All of these equipment and the services that power them come from corporations, some of which don’t put people before profits and power. What if there was a completely home-grown network that allows free exchange of data built entirely on open source software ? Any one can build them, any one can use them for any purpose they see fit without censorship.
Such a network is the goal of Free Network Foundation which was birthed during the initial days of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. Founded and run by 21-year-old Isaac Wilder, an Occupier himself, this network uses software built using open source Debian server and locally designed transmission towers called Freedom Towers. This is the setup that powered all the OWS network updates and posts on the internet that spread ideas from New York to San Francisco from to London to Moscow. Movie maker Brian Anderson has made an eye opening half-hour documentary about the origins of this truly open network amidst OWS, its growth and its promise for tomorrow.
The documentary shows how almost all the equipment, including the freedom towers that transmit wi-fi were destroyed during the brutal raid executed by the New York City Police department in the early hours of Nov 17. Broken and smashed laptops shot using cellphone by Wilder show how far the police had gone to suppress and demoralize the occupiers and by association their ideas.
Despite having lost all their earlier work Wilder and his friends are continuing to work on the Free Network Foundation, supported by online donations and grants from web advocacy groups. After watching this movie, one gets a new look on the possibilities that can blossom from OWS movement. It is one think to cause awareness to the expanding social inequality and unfairness of the system towards majority of the population, but it is a completely different and possibly more intriguing thing when the same sense of openness is applied to technology which will be the only possible way to spread revolutionary ideas in the future. With all the uproar from the online community regarding the user tracking mechanisms employed by Google, Facebook and other companies, a truly free network seems like a critical piece in ensuring a truly open web.
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