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.