Community Networks and Sustainability: a Survey of Perceptions, Practices, and Proposed Solutions

TitleCommunity Networks and Sustainability: a Survey of Perceptions, Practices, and Proposed Solutions
Publication TypeWeb Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsPanagiota Micholia, Merkouris Karaliopoulos, Iordanis Koutsopoulos, Leandro Navarro, R. Baig-Viñas, D. Boucas, M. Michalis, and P. Antoniadis
Accession NumberarXiv:1707.06898
KeywordsCommunity networks, incentive mechanisms., Sustainability

Community network (CN) initiatives have been around for roughly two decades, evangelizing a distinctly different paradigm for building, maintaining, and sharing network infrastructure but also defending the basic human right to Internet access. Over this time they have evolved into a mosaic of systems that vary widely with respect to their network technologies, their offered services, their organizational structure, and the way they position themselves in the overall telecommunications' ecosystem. Common to all these highly differentiated initiatives is the sustainability challenge. We approach sustainability as a broad term with an economical, political, and cultural context. We first review the different perceptions of the term. These vary both across and within the different types of stakeholders involved in CNs and are reflected in their motivation to join such initiatives. Then, we study the diverse ways that CN operators pursue the sustainability goal. Depending on the actual context of the term, these range all the way from mechanisms to fund their activities and synergistic approaches with commercial service providers, to organizational structures and social activities that serve as incentives to maximize the engagement of their members. Finally, we iterate and discuss theoretical concepts of incentive mechanisms that have been proposed in the literature for these networks as well as implemented tools and processes designed to set the ground for CN participation. While, theoretical mechanisms leverage game theory, reputation frameworks, and social mechanisms, implemented mechanisms focus on organizational matters, education and services, all aiming to motivate the active and sustained participation of users and other actors in the CN.