We’re pleased to announce that we recently received a determination letter from the IRS, designating the Free Network Foundation as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization. We’re beyond excited about the new possibilities this opens for us to teach more people how to build free networks. More announcements to follow soon.
Winter Summit 2014
In March, the FNF held its 2014 Winter Summit in Austin, TX. We were joined in Austin by operators and activists from Sudo Room in Oakland, WLAN Slovenia, and Los Angeles, and by more friends around the world via telepresence. The Summit focused on refining key documents of the free network movement, specifically the Free Network Definition [LINK] and the Network Commons License [LINK]. It was exhilarating to meet with so many who share our vision and passion, and are already realizing the free network movement in their own communities.
We helped our KCFN partner upgrade their network at Juniper Gardens in late March. The network at Juniper Gardens now connects back to Oak Tower in KCMO, freeing the last remaining part of the KCFN from dependence on incumbent ISPs. Upgrading the network also provided hands-on building experience for Clint and our volunteers. Simultaneous to building the new link, Connecting for Good opened a community tech center across the street from Juniper Gardens, the largest housing project in Kansas, where we hope to hold Hacker Dojo classes in the coming months.
Charles came to Kansas City for a brief hacking sprint this quarter, primarily focused on building AutoTunnel. AutoTunnel is the software solution, still in development, that will provide authentication, encryption, and security services for free networks.
In late March, Isaac attended the LibrePlanet 2014 conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. LibrePlanet is a meetup of members of the free software community from around the world. While their, Isaac had a chance to meet with free software pioneers including Eben Moglen and FNF Advisory Board member Richard Stallman, with the goal of encouraging their participation in the Free network Definition and the Network Commons License. In February, Isaac presented about free networks at 89plus, a conference for young artists and innovators that was held in Mexico City.
Expanding the KCFN
This quarter, the FNF has participated in the KCFN’s meetings with the Urban Neighborhood Initiative (UNI), a Kansas City group that represents a number of neighborhood associations. UNI seeks to build networks to serve the communities they represent, on the Eastside of KCMO, and the FNF and KCFN are currently helping them to design a pilot program.
Please check out our 2013 Annual Report here. We’re working to fix some issue swith our CRM in order to send it out to our newsletter mailing list as soon as possible.
Launching the Kansas City Freedom Network
This August saw our partner networks in Kansas City come together to form a coalition we call the Kansas City Freedom Network (KCFN). We settled on a name for the network that we think will reflect the political ideals of the network beyond just affordable access. The Kansas City Freedom Network is presently made up of the Black Economic Union, Connecting for Good, the FNF, the Mutual Musicians Foundation, and Reconciliation Services.
The network itself thus far consists of the previously built towers at Rosedale Ridge and Posada del Sol, administered by CFG, in addition to sites at the Mutual Musicians Foundation in the Jazz District and at Reconciliation Services’ location at 31st and Troost. More organizations on the East Side of KC have expressed interest in building their own sites and expanding the network. The stakeholders in the KCFN have been meeting weekly to discuss policy and governance for the network, as well as how to expand it organically and responsibly.
On August 27th, a press conference held at the MMF publicly announced the launch of their network. A beta website for the KCFN is now online.
The KCFN provides the FNF an opportunity to implement and improve our designs and methodologies. Working with a diverse group of stakeholders has refined our understanding of what drives commons network stewardship, and which pedagogical techniques have the most impact.
FNF in the Arts
In September, we collaborated on a celebration of legendary jazz saxophonist Ben Webster, with the MMF and the Society for the Prevention of Unnecessary Demolition (SPUD). Webster, who grew up in the East Side of KC and played in the MMF’s building, is still renowned by jazz lovers as one of the all time great tenor saxophonists, though he is far less known in Kansas City than other native jazz musicians like Charlie Parker. The Ben Webster project was part of a yearlong campaign by SPUD to highlight the great historical and cultural value of physical places around Kansas City’s urban core before they are lost forever.
The FNF worked with SPUD to conduct and record a video interview and jazz performance with the Ben Webster Foundation in Copenhagen, Denmark, where Webster spent the final years of his life. The interview was conducted using the KCFN, and we think it was an excellent demonstration of the power of connectivity to bring people together across great distance, and to get Kansas Citians engaged in the oft-forgotten history of their own city.
In September the FNF participated in Station to Station, a public art project by Doug Aitken involving a cross-country train trip and video recordings/live performances of cultural figures and groups they found interesting along the way. More information on the project, including a brief video about the FNF, can be found on the project’s website.
In late August, we were visited in Kansas City by Pau and Roger from Catalunya’s guifi.net. They assisted with an upgrade of the KCFN, and contributed their expertise to an network feasibility study of the areas around Lincoln College Preparatory Academy, and the Kelly Center, both in KCMO. Thanks to their help, the KCFN is now a fully routed network, running the qmp firmare After their time in Kansas City, Isaac accompanied Pau and Roger to Oakland, CA, where they met with hackers from Sudo Room, a group that is beginning to build a free network in the East Bay. The trip marked a deepening collaboration with guifi.net and their massive free network project, following Isaac and Gordon Cook’s trip to Catalunya last May.
In early October, Isaac attended the International Summit for Community Wireless Networks in Berlin, Germany. Isaac gave a talk entitled, “Measuring and Optimizing Network Performance,” alongside Thomas Huhn of the Technical University of Berlin. Isaac also attended the Circumvention Tech Summit that took place in the days before the main event.
The IS4CWN gave the FNF a chance to reconnect with allied movements across the world, and to meet new friends and collaborators. A productive meeting was had among many people and groups regarding the Network Commons License, which resulted in a mailing list set up to continue the discussion of documents to federate free networks. Isaac also made contact with the builders of WasabiNet, a community mesh network in St. Louis that has been making exciting advances lately in, among other things, solar powered mesh nodes.
Following the IS4CWN, Isaac traveled to London to meet with Jefferson Hack, co-founder of Dazed & Confused, a style and culture magazine. Hack and Dazed, who covered the FNF in their June 2013 issue, are supporters of the Free Network Movement, and worked with Isaac to explore possible avenues of collaboration and help the FNF to craft a press kit.
Over the last 6 months, conversations between some of the world’s leading free network communities have lead to the emergence of the libre-mesh project. We are proud to be a part of the LibreMesh team, and glad to have found an experienced team of firmware hackers with which to collaborate. From the website:
Libre-Mesh is an initiative undertaken by community networks members of several continents that collaborate towards a common goal: to develop a set of tools that facilitate the deployment of Free Networks on any community in the world.
Main tool is Libre-Mesh firmware: based on OpenWrt, eases the creation of WiFi communities, and enables existing communities to add roaming clouds to their networks.
Other tools are:
LibreNet6: mesh tunnel broker to supply global IPv6 to free community networks
Chef: custom-fitted firmware creator for communities
LibreMap (in collaboration with Freifunk): node plot in geographical location with automatic update of quality links in real time.
While each tool stands on its own, and can be used separately, we strive to integrate them as much as possible, so that they work together the best.
This project was born as an effort to merge some preexistent firmware projects:
- AlterMesh (from AlterMundi, Argentina)
- qMp (from guifi.net, Catalunya)
- eigenNet (from eigenLab, Ninux, Italia)
And with the support of some existent organizations:
- the Free Network Foundation (from USA)
- the Guifi.net Foundation (from Catalunya)
Working Towards Tax Exempt Status
We have remained in communication with the IRS about our application for 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. In June, we responded at length to a number of questions they raised, and are awaiting further response from them. We are excited to be moving towards tax exempt status. If you would like to view their questions, and our responses, not only are they a matter of public record, but they’re on our wiki: IRS Responses on The Commons
As you may know, the FNF is an all-volunteer organization and we rely on your support to keep helping communities build their own networks. While we move through the application process for tax exemption, our opportunities to seek grant funding are limited. At this time, we take in less funds per month than it costs us to keep our servers running, and we don’t know how we will keep funding our work in the coming months. Please consider signing up as a monthly donor, or giving a one-time contribution to the FNF, here.
Wrote up and turned in some paperwork to Jerry Greenfield and Elizabeth
Skarie Foundation. We’re on track to receive a grant of 10k, which will
cover our most basic operating expenses for the year, but certainly does
not remove us from needing funds. Still some good news though. I’ve also
been emailing a bit with our contact at Dazed. They’re going to try to
help us with both PR (e.g. creation of press kit materials) and
fundraising when Isaac meets with them next week.
I’ve begun talking with Catherine Kelly/Archer Foundation in KC about
future collaborations. What we’ve talked about so far involved finding
backhaul solutions for an East Side computer lab where classes would be
offered (by them, but hopefully this could include Dojo programming down
the road). I have not made any specific promises yet and we have no
committments, but I think they are a good group to collaborate with, as
long as to do so does not unnecessarily distract from ongoing work.
Archer Foundation is the family foundation of John Darbyshire, a KC tech
entrepreneur whose Archer Technologies became successful from developing
enterprise governance, risk, and compliance software.
Reading Gordon’s new Report, which is excellent. Hopefully it will be
published to this list soon.
On Friday, Clint and I provided technical support for an event at the
Mutual Musicians Foundation. The event, a celebration of late KC tenor
saxophone legend Ben Webster, was a project of the Society for the
Prevention of Unnecessary Demolition (SPUD), which works in primarily
the Jazz District of KCMO to educate people about the historical and
cultural importance of the cityscape around them. We helped SPUD to set
up and record a skype call (over the KCFN) with the Ben Webster
Foundation in Copenhagen, that was played at the MMF later in the day
due to the time difference. The event went off very well, and it was
exciting to use the KCFN for the project. Hopefully next time we do
something like this we’ll be able to try out more advanced network
functionality and free software as well, but in this case we didn’t have
enough time to be as experimental as we might like. But I think it
served as a demonstration of one way the KCFN can help connect people
both locally and across the world.
Working hard right now on this engineering study, as well as other loose
ends to wrap before Isaac leaves town (Thurs the 26) for the summit in
Berlin. Really trying to incorporate the importance of education and
decentralized control into the document. I’ve been looking at the
documentation on Commotion Wireless’ and Detroit Digital Justice
Coalition’s Detroit project lately, since I think that initiative is
remarkably similar to our in many aspects of goals and scope. I would
love to know what others think of the documentation materials they have
put out so far (some of which I’ve linked at the bottom of this
message). Also curious if anyone has had first hand experience of their
project in Detroit lately, especially of their operator training
LPFM project with the MMF is moving forward too, as we move closer to
securing a physical location. More details on that in coming days.
Some commotionXdetroit links for your perusal, so y’all can help us know
what to replicate and what to do differently, both in marketing and
documenting the work we do:
party article abt the project)
http://cassco.co/ (site for one of the community networks)
(includes some build documentation)
Met with the FNF Board of Directors last night. It was a routine
meeting, no special agenda. The Board approved of the FNF’s
participation in the KCFN, of the FNF applying for funding from CONFINE,
and for the FNF to collaborate with Dazed Group.
I wiki-posted a couple of educational course outlines we had created.
They are https://commons.thefnf.org/index.php/Theory_of_Networks and
These are drafts and we would appreciate feedback.
Looks like the livestream we were helping with between the MMF and
Copenhagen, DK won’t be coming together due to technical issues on their
end. We’re hoping to make it happen in the future. In other
collaboration news, an art project called “Station to Station” by Doug
Aitken was in Kansas City this week. I would have mentioned it
beforehand but it was a pop-up kind of thing and I only learned it was
happening hours previous. Anyway there’s a short clip of me talking to
their film crew, at http://stationtostation.com/free-network-foundation-2/
No call tonight, but we’ll be holding evening tech dojo at the MMF.
This morning concluded a four day hacking sprint leading to a press
conference at the MMF announcing their network. The work was finished
just in time! The KCFN is now a routed network running qmp.
The press conference went very well. It was pretty low key, I don’t know
if anyone showed up who wasn’t already aware in some part of our work,
but that’s how press conferences invariably are. Anita from MMF, Isaac,
Michael from C4G, Fr Justin from RS, and Roger from Guifi all spoke
briefly. It was good to connect again with some people from around KC
who seem interested in what we’re doing. As always, our work is equal
parts building telecommunications networks, and human ones. I’m looking
forward to attending some events at the MMF this week celebrating
Charlie Parker, and I urge everyone in the KC area to come. Schedule at
A preliminary version of the website for the KCFN is now live! It’s
located at http://www.kcfreedom.net/
We would love some feedback on it. I should note that the website is not
hosted or managed by the FNF, and its content represents the entire
Presently, Isaac, Roger, and Pau are beginning the engineering study for
a community network in the area around Lincoln Prep. This will occupy
much of our time for the rest of the week.
The C4G social yesterday evening went great. Many people showed up, some
of whom from groups we collaborate with now or in the near future, and
some others who are less aware of our work. Pau and Roger spoke to
everyone about Guifi, and clearly the audience was impressed by their
accomplishments. Afterward we hacked on some mesh firmware and discussed
strategy for the weekend, then picked up Charles who has come from
Austin for the weekend.
Today we have continued firmware hacking for most of the day, in
preparation for making the KCFN a routed network, and in preparation for
the public reveal of the Vine St Network at the MMF’s press conference
on Tuesday the 27th. Right now I’m in the basement of 3101 Troost
(Reconciliation Services’ building where C4G also operates) with Isaac,
Charles, Clint, Roger, and Pau. Rick from C4G has been around for most
of today as well, and Brad from MMF, and Jake, who has started working
with FNF, have hacked with us this weekend as well. It’s been incredibly
exciting to have the opportunity to hack together in person with so many
of our friends and partners; it just feels better and is so much more
effective. We are so grateful to C4G and the Guifi Foundation for making
this summit financially possible.
Tonight will be more hacking, and hopefully a visit to the Late Night
Jam Session at the MMF so that our guests can experience the value of
MMF’s work and appreciate, in my opinion, the absolute best offering of
KC culture. Tomorrow will be pretty crazy. We plan to visit all the
current FTower sites and reflash the devices.
Pau and Roger from Guifi.net came in on Wednesday evening and will be in
KC for a week more. Yesterday, we all attended the Kansas City Freedom
Network (KCFN) weekly meeting. We all asked many questions about Guifi,
especially about how to expand the network effectively and sustainably.
Roger and Pau stressed the importance of building in small iterations,
and letting growth happen organically as much as possible, then going
back and improving network infrastructure based on how the network is
already being used. We’re now gearing up for the engineering study that
Pau and Roger came here primarily to do, as well as for building a tower
at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy (Lincoln Prep), a KCMO public
magnet school at 21st and Woodland Ave (a few blocks SE of the MMF, on a
hill). That evening we went to a Royals baseball game. The Royals lost.
Presently, we’re at Tech Dojo at the MMF. Working on some network
set-up, like setting up DNS and configuring a media server. A friend of
Anita’s who is running for city council from a district on the East Side
of KC was around, and Isaac explained to her about the Freedom Network
we’re building. This evening, C4G will hold a get-together to celebrate
In other news, my landlord is getting GFiber for my building, and that
might be in as soon as next week. Expect a review in this space :)