Community Networks for Resilience

policy paper | October 15, 2014

As consumer choice in the broadband market has declined and the need for more resilient infrastructure has increased, community wireless networks are increasingly important tools for local communications, economic development, and for access to critical information. OTI has developed an approach to planning and building these networks that uses technical and social processes to increase their resiliency. This paper presents blueprints for some of these designs, to give communities a starting point for their own network planning and organizing.

Neighborhood networks designed for resilience and disaster recovery must be planned, built and maintained by the communities they intend to serve in order to ensure they are tailored to the needs of the community, and that individuals in the communities are able to repair the networks during or after emergencies. Participatory planning or co-design methods are crucial: only through collaboration among anchor institutions, small businesses, local organizations, and individuals can the network best serve the neighborhood. The result will be that everyone involved will be better prepared for emergencies and for restoring the network when it is most needed. Network stewards and trainees, additional backup service options, cooperative bandwidth purchasing, and the option of public Wi-Fi coverage all enhance the resilience and economic benefits to small businesses, organizations, and individuals that work together in vulnerable areas by ensuring the availability of resources needed to maintain and troubleshoot the networks.

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