The netCommons Project

Information and communication technologies are key components of a modern society, and their control is the key to societal development. The advent of the Internet has been often invoked as a remedy for their democratization and the diffusion of fundamental human rights. The light of truth shows today a different picture: the digital divide is widening the gap between those who can access and take advantage of the new systems, and those who remain “disconnected” (with respect to physical access to technology, economic advantages, cultural uses and skills, and democratic impacts). A problem is emerging about the Internet’s sustainability, both socio-economic (large Internet corporations eluding taxes and aggressively commercializing most services) and political-democratic (the global Internet surveillance and the lack of transparency). This, coupled with the complexity of the Internet’s organisation and the diffused lack of awareness about its actual implementation makes the users easy targets of manipulation, and unaware of the possibility to have a bottom-up, democratic, communal organisation of “the Internet”.

netCommons aspires to study, support and further promote an emerging trend, community-based networking and communication services that can offer a complement, or even a sustainable alternative, to the global Internet’s current dominant model. Community networks not only provide citizens with access to a neutral, bottom-up network infrastructure, which naturally increases the transparency of data flow, but they also represent an archetype of networked collective cooperation and action, mixing common or communal ownership and management of an infrastructure with a balanced set of services supported by the local stakeholders. Community networks, however, are complex systems that require multiple skills to thrive: technical, legal, socio-economic, and political. They face many challenges and they also need abstractions, models and practical tools to grow and produce a higher beneficial impact on our society.

netCommons follows a dual approach to achieve the maximum possible impact. On the one hand, the project works at the local level, mingling with the communities that implement and manage community networks to gather relevant information, elaborate it, and then return to communities advanced conceptual and technical tools helping them to grow and thrive. On the other hand, starting from such hands-on experience and work, netCommons contributes to Internet Science by abstracting concepts and opening the perspective to the world of global communications. It studies solutions and interpretations of how to build global awareness about the importance of sustainability, participation, co-operation, freedom, democracy, peer production, the public and common good, and the role of community networks to help this process. Consequently, netCommons will foster the implementation of the proper actions (local to communities and global to the regulatory level) that can guarantee that information creation and diffusion remains free, neutral, fair, and respectful of individual rights.

If you are interested in netCommons, here you can find a longer description of the project, and feel free to contact us.