Community Networks have been depending since their inception on modifying existing of-the-shelf routers to adapt them to their particular needs. Software development in Community Network and the Free Software movement as a whole have pushed the barrier of innovation and helped commercial enterprises develop new products over the years. This virtuous relation between hardware vendors and the community has been threatened by new regulation from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – U.S.A.- which has led vendors to globally close up their routers to third party modifications, shutting the door to Community Networks in terms of access to the hardware they depend on. The LibreRouter project worked to design and produce a high performance multi-radio wireless router targeted at Community Network’s needs. This project was selected together with the University of Western Cape (FIRE Scale-up grantee) for the Interregional Grant. The funding assigned by FRIDA to the LibreRouter Project was used primarily for the development of the hardware, that is defining specifications, prototypes, main board, and funding the production of the initial batch of LibreRouter devices.
- The Libre Router project designed and produced a high performance multi-radio wireless router targeted at the global south CNs needs, maintaining a competitive low cost and legal viability.
- The technical team carried out six iterations until arriving to the final version containing the technical specifications of the project: https://librerouter.org/document/specifications-sheet-v6/. Subsequently, the teams worked with the producing factory to finalize the board schematics and produce the prototypes.
- Two iterations of the prototype were produced. AlterMundi established contact with the national regulator (ENACOM) which has expressed their interest to support the approval of this device in the context of ENACOM’s plans to support Community Networks in Argentina.
- During march of 2017, LibreMesh developers met for three weeks to work full-time on the firmware and associated software tools. Beyond software development activities, AlterMundi held an interregional networks meeting receiving members of the community networks from Nono, Anisacate, Cerrito de la Bolsa and José de la Quintana who shared their needs and perspective regarding the tools that were being designed and developed.
- The LibreRouter project has had a significant impact in the community networks, and similar, movements, even without having released yet a piece of hardware that communities can interact with. The project has contributed enormously to increase the coordination across a considerable amount of stakeholders from the community networks movements. There is a wide consensus around the fact that community networks are one of the main alternatives in the “Connecting the Next Billion” debate.