We asked: How does Commons-based peer production relate to the possibility of community owned Internet networks (COIN)? In particular, consider how Althea.net enables what Yochai Benkler refers to as converting consumers into prosumers, with Blockchain software on the router that enables people to purchase bandwidth from upstream and sell bandwidth to people downstream.
The answer explains the benefits of a new regenerative economy replacing the older extractive model of the incumbent ISPs.
Chat GPT4 answered:
Commons-based peer production (CBPP) is a concept that represents a new mode of economic production where the creative energy of large numbers of people is coordinated into large, meaningful projects, mostly without traditional hierarchical organization. This concept has been well-articulated by Yochai Benkler and is most famously exemplified by the development of open-source software and collaborative platforms like Wikipedia.
Community-owned Internet networks can be viewed as an extension of the CBPP model into the realm of broadband access. These networks can be built and maintained by a cooperative of users, rather than by centralized corporate ISPs. Such a structure inherently promotes digital equity by putting control and, ideally, ownership, in the hands of community members.
Althea.net offers a fascinating twist by integrating blockchain technology. By doing so, they enable a decentralized form of Internet service provision that not only challenges the traditional, centralized model but also directly empowers consumers to become “prosumers.” In this model, each user with a router can essentially act as a mini-ISP, purchasing bandwidth from those upstream and selling it to those downstream. This system makes Internet access more of a peer-to-peer service, akin to the way torrents distribute data, thus, decentralizing the control and economic structure of the network.
Systemic Innovation Perspectives:
- Financial Autonomy: Blockchain allows for transparent and automated financial transactions. By tokenizing bandwidth, members of the community can earn real value, increasing financial autonomy and reducing dependence on large ISPs.
- Democratic Governance: Community networks typically operate on a model that allows for more democratic governance. Adding blockchain can create transparent voting systems for making major network decisions.
- Scalability: One of the challenges of CBPP projects is scalability. The blockchain can automatically handle transactions and record-keeping, thus enabling the network to scale without a corresponding increase in administrative complexity.
- Resilience and Redundancy: Decentralized networks are generally more resilient to failures. If one node goes down, data can route through others. This is especially important in underserved areas where service interruptions are common.
- Global Collaboration: Althea’s model can be replicated globally. It provides a blueprint for how to set up community-owned networks that could be adopted by digital activists around the world focusing on digital equity.
- Policy Influence: Widespread adoption and success of such models can have a knock-on effect on policy, encouraging lawmakers to support more decentralized, equitable forms of Internet governance.
- Environmental Sustainability: Decentralized networks may allow for more efficient use of resources. For example, excess bandwidth or computational power could be redistributed within the network, rather than wasted.
- Incentivizing Local Development: By turning consumers into prosumers, local populations have a stronger incentive to develop, maintain, and upgrade their own infrastructure, as opposed to waiting for external ISPs to make those investments.
Community-owned networks, backed by blockchain technology, offer an intriguing avenue for the application of commons-based peer production principles to the realm of Internet access, potentially revolutionizing the way we think about digital connectivity and digital equity.
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