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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 TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsMicholia, P, Karaliopoulos, M, Koutsopoulos, I, Navarro, L, Baig, R, Boucas, D, Michalis, M, Antoniadis, P
JournalIEEE Communications Surveys Tutorials
KeywordsBiological system modeling, Broadband communication, community networks, Economics, incentive mechanisms., Internet, sustainability, Sustainable development, Telecommunications, Wireless communication
AbstractCommunity 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 approaches of CN operators towards the sustainability goal. Given the rich context of the term, these range all the way from mechanisms to fund their activities, to organizational structures and social activities serving as incentives for the engagement of their members. We iterate on incentive mechanisms that have been proposed and theoretically analyzed in the literature for CNs as well as tools and processes that have been actually implemented in them. Finally, we enumerate lessons that have been learned out of these two decades of CNs’ operation and discuss additional technological and regulatory issues that are key to their longer-term sustainability.