The OPLAN Foundation, is part of a European wide consortium that has been chosen by the European Commission to undertake a significant research project into community communications networks. The CONFINE project will explore how community networks can be more effective in bringing increased benefit to citizens within member states and beyond. Malcolm Matson, Blaine Tatum and Louise Koue from the OPLAN Foundation attended the Project kick-off meeting in Athens, which launched the Project on 1st October 2011.
The CONFINE Project will provide an extensive test bed for interested parties to explore the technical and social issues related to locally and regionally driven community networks based on internet protocol. Community networks, like that already operated by various participants in the CONFINE project deploy the latest digital technology, whether wireless and/or optical fibre, to support the communities they serve. These networks provide local connectivity within and across their community that can support a whole range of users and services – not just access to the global public internet or voice telephony.
Community networks are structured and managed to ensure all the benefit and value goes to the users of the network, so it is likely that they will substantially contribute to the socio-economic prosperity of the citizens they serve. For example, their potential for the delivery of health and education services, and local e-commerce, can have a transformational impact on a city or community. The CONFINE Project will accelerate this by providing any interested party with a test-bed for exploring and validating this assumption. The partners have already begun the task of planning the first phase of the project test bed.
The CONFINE project comprises eight partners from Belgium, Spain, Germany, Greece and the UK and is being co-ordinated by the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya in Spain. It will run for four years with a total budget of just under five million euros. The key goal of the CONFINE Project will be to develop and extend a test-bed environment which will include the partners’ existing community networks that already comprise more than 20,000 nodes and links. Once established, then the CONFINE project will make an open call to researchers (from academia, industry and the third sector), on how they might be able to benefit the citizens of the EU by using the test bed to undertake further technical, social and economic research to enhance the sustainability and utility of community networks.
Malcolm Matson, Founder and Director of The OPLAN Foundation said,
“We are very pleased to be able to contribute to the CONFINE project by collaborating with the very experienced group of participants from around the EU. We are confident that by sharing our knowledge and experience we will be able to develop a test-bed environment that will be welcomed and used by a wide range of researchers to the benefit of our citizens.”
The eight partners in CONFINE are:
- Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC): Spain
UPC is a university with a consolidated worldwide reputation and an international vision that generates technological innovation and attracts talent. The objectives of the UPC are based on internationalization.
- Fundació Privada per a la Xarxa Oberta, Lliure i Neutral guifi.net: Spain
Located in Catalonia, Spain, guifi.net is the largest community network of its kind in the world using unlicensed wireless links and open optical links. It is open and neutral with over 21,400 nodes and self-organised and operated by the users in the community.
- FunkFeuer: Austria
FunkFeuer is a free, experimental network in Vienna, Graz, in parts of Weinviertel (NÖ) and Bad Ischl. It is build and maintained by computer enthusiasts. This project is non commercial.
- Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network (AWMN): Greece
Started in 2002 in Athens Greece, Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network (AWMN) is a grass roots wireless community, taking advantage of new, state of the art wireless technologies, to connect people and services. It now covers an area approximately 100km x 100 km and operates on a not-for-profit basis.
- Comunicació per a la Cooperació- Pangea: Spain
Pangea is an NGO which aims to facilitate communications to individuals and non-profit groups working for change, social justice, peace, education, environment and co-operation, trying to break north-south and gender differences.
- Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung EV: Germany
Europe’s largest application-oriented research organization. Our research efforts are geared entirely to people’s needs: health, security, communication, energy and the environment. As a result, the work undertaken by our researchers and developers has a significant impact on people’s lives.
- Interdisciplinary Institute for Broadband Technology: Belgium
Based in Belgium, IBBT aims to create a lasting and positive impact on society through ICT innovation and research undertaken in collaboration with technology suppliers and users.