From the Trenches: Athens’ DIY Internet


“From the Trenches” is a battle cry. In a globalized world that criminalizes the rebellious in spirit, it’s easy to forget that change-minded activists and organizers are tallying up tiny victories against sociocultural and economic oppression on the regular. The column will serve as a weekly reminder that we not only can win, but we do, often. So hasta la victoria siempre and all that.

Reality is always busting up our collective hopes for a little piece of utopia, a less oppressive, less exploitative future. And no entity is as guilty of destroying our masochistic optimism as our attachment to technology. From automobiles to computers, technological advancement is often closely tied in our imaginations to the logic of the market, of competition for the sake of innovation, of profit-before-people, and before just about everything else.

But maybe technology doesn’t have to be the messy roommate you put up with because he always buys beer.

In his Mutual Aid, anarchist and zoologist Peter Kropotkin wrote: “We may safely say that mutual aid is as much a law of animal life as mutual struggle; but that as a factor of evolution, it most probably has a far greater importance.” Kropotkin goes on to argue that in working collectively, animals gain the evolutionary upper hand in development and quality of life.

Is it then possible that technology, far from being incompatible with an equitable society, could become more effective at problem solving if it were removed from the logic of capitalism, that is, if it were democratized? One Athens neighborhood seems to think so. The Daily Dot reports:

In an effort to buck the expensive rates of unreliable corporate telecom companies, a community in Athens, Greece, has created its own private Internet.

Built from a network of wireless rooftop antennas, the Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network (AWMN) now has more than 1,000 members. Data moves “through” the AWMN mesh up to 30 times faster than it does on the telecom-provided Internet. …

The AWMN began in 2002 in response to the poor Internet service provided by traditional telecommunications companies in Athens. However, the past few years have illustrated another use for these citizen-run meshes: preserving the democratic values of the Internet.

Read more about Greece’s “off-the-grid” Internet.




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