Wireless for developing nations gets Soros Foundation grant

A major win for proponents of wireless networks for developing nations! The Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network (CWN) received a $200,000 grant from the Open Society Institute, funded by the Soros Foundation, to develop wireless technology to be used around the globe, with a focus on developing nations. Urbana-Champaign, Illinois will become the testing ground for this technology.A major win for proponents of wireless networks for developing nations! The Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network (CWN) received a $200,000 grant from the Open Society Institute, funded by the Soros Foundation, to develop wireless technology to be used around the globe, with a focus on developing nations. Urbana-Champaign, Illinois will become the testing ground for this technology.

There are a lot of community organizations developing cheap wireless networks that can be scaled up for city-wide coverage. Most well-known are BARWN in San Francisco and Personal Telco in Portland. The Wireless Roadshow and First Mile Solutions are two companies that are trying to bring broadband to developing countries. I think it would be better if they all cooperated more closely.

CWN is building a high-speed communications network to support publishing and city-wide Internet radio broadcast by citizens, a community-owned local telephone service, and bandwidth sharing. The network uses off-the-shelf wireless hardware to spread a “web” of network connectivity across town.

CWN uses open-source software and open-architecture hardware created by the CWN development team. Using essentially the same “WiFi” equipment you may use in your home or office, the CWN puts equipment on rooftops to connect users with their neighbors to form a high-speed community network.

CWN’s objectives are to to connect every local citizen to the Internet at low cos, develop open-source hardware and software for use by wireless projects worldwide and build and support community-owned, not-for-profit broadband networks in cities and towns throughout the world.

In the last three years, CWN research and development has yielded two proof-of-concept CWN prototypes in Urbana. The current Open Society Institute grant will allow the CWN development team to refine this software and build a large-scale Community Wireless Network testbed that can be used by the Champaign-Urbana community to bring affordable broadband connectivity to all.

The Community Wireless Network is a program of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center Foundation (IMC), a federally-recognized non-profit organization. The project has supported itself through donations, foundational grants, and institutional support. The Community Wireless Network is composed of a consortium of researchers, programmers, community activists, non-profit organizations, for-profit businesses, and educational institutions. OJC Technologies is the development home for the Community Wireless Network and has generously agreed to donate office space for the project. The Acorn Active Media Foundation provides infrastructure support for CWN.

Muniwireless stories on wireless broadband for developing nations:

Cambodian schools and clinics get unwired
India: Internet connectivity via Wi-Fi for villages without phones
Bhutan gets wireless and VoIP
New Delhi police deploy wireless network for polling stations
Mesh networking for the rest of us