Community Networks are a matter of autonomy, which has been demonstrated by the indigenous communities of Mexico and the world. Like languages, the traditional crop-growing system milpa, the communal land, assembly, and tequio – or community work – it is a tool that addresses the needs of humanity.
Radio, telephony, and community wireless Internet and Intranet networks (local content offline platforms) acquired and operated by the communities themselves, not only respond to the human right to communication and connectivity, but also to the right to exercise it from their own values and principles; to the possibility of discussing and deciding, for example, how it will work, where the infrastructure will be placed, who will be responsible for the maintenance, when it will be used, and how the network that belongs to everyone will be sustained.
The Mexican Constitution recognizes in its Article 2 the system of traditional organization of indigenous communities and the right to establish their own means of communication, in addition to requiring authorities to create the conditions so that they can operate and administer them in accordance with the law. Although the conditions are written on paper, there are persistent legal and bureaucratic obstacles that distance them from reality.
Therefore, in Mexico, the communities themselves, together with civil society organizations, have made these conditions possible. This has been done by the Indigenous Community Telecommunications telephony service in the indigenous communities of Oaxaca and the Ik’ta K’op Colectivo wireless network that shares educational and cultural content on the Ya J’noptik Intranet for the Tseltal community of Abasolo, Chiapas.
In addition to resolving access to connectivity, Community Networks allow us to rethink the hegemonic models of connectivity that predominate in the world, where we naturally assume the individual business-consumer relationship, forgetting for example, that the spectrum is a common good that belongs to all of us.
With the support of Beyond the Net and the Internet Society Chapter Mexico, REDES AC, hand in hand with the department of electrical engineering and the postgraduate program in science and information technology at the Metropolitan Autonomous University, as well as organizations like Altermundi and the Network of Communicators Boca de Polen, we have taken the first steps to rethink connectivity and develop Community Networks with four indigenous communities: Ayuujk, Zapotec, Wixárika and Tseltal.
We keep moving forward – always open to the renewal of what is and can be a Community Network in this diverse world, ready to share the path with other communities. We build autonomy when we work on doing things for ourselves, with our own resources.
Want to see how other communities have done it? Read the New York Times feature Hauling the Internet to an Ex-Soviet Outpost High in the Caucasus Mountains, then read our Tusheti Case Study for more information.
Photo: ©Maria Alvarez Malvido for Redes AC