The last time we heard from Isaac Wilder, co-founder of the Free Network Foundation, he was getting the hell out of New York City. We first met Wilder, whose peer-to-peer, wifi-hotspot driven communications initiative took front and center in our documentary Free the Network, late last year at the height of Occupy Wall Street fever. But by spring he’d gown restless, and increasingly distanced from the movement. His work here with both the OWS Signal Corps and the FNF, which seeks to liberate the global Internet from a creeping corporatization by growing their own decentralized, cooperatively owned, “free” network by putting up custom-built Freedom Towers, only left him itching to shake the relentless spotlights of New York City for something a bit slower, and certainly overlooked: Kansas City, Kansas. His home.
It was inevitable. The FNF, Freedom Towers, mesh networking, et. al. – these things were not build for OWS, Wilder once told me. They can be leveraged by OWS and similar populist experiments, of course, but they are not inherently of OWS. Their real purpose? To empower underserviced communities, just like those in Kansas City. Wilder and the FNF say getting these urban pockets online is possible – they’ve done the scouting, the homework, and roughly anticipate their mesh network to go live by October. And the stakes couldn’t be higher. Google has chosen the city of nearly 150,000, along with its sister-city in Missouri, as a test lab for Google Fiber, the search giant’s foray into ultra-fast (see: 100x faster than today’s broadband) Internet service. Google Fiber is set to begin rolling out this month.
That said, and what with all the “What Happened to OWS?” op-eds whirring around on the heels of the movement’s one-year anniversary, sit back and enjoy this re-air of Free the Network.
Top: Wilder and Freedom Tower (via FastCo)
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