The story of the Freedom Tower (from DemoDay)

“What you see here is a freedom tower”, said Isaac Wilder as we approached his stand at the DemoDay last Saturday. Then he began to tell a story that started when he and his friend were in college.

“I’m from Detroit. And in Detroit there is many people that cannot afford Internet, and I was like, what? Internet should be free, should be like a human right”, says Wilder’s friend.

Moved by the idea of a “global scale, decentralized and distributed network”, they began to develop the project that later would become the Freedom Tower: low cost and people-owned Internet access via mesh network. Shortly after, they decided to drop college and started the Free Network Foundation.

It’s been almost two years from that.  So far they have built five towers –including the one that was taken by the police at OWS.

It costs about 1500 dollars to build one tower, and about 2000 if it is fully under solar power. Each tower can provide connectivity to 50 to 100 people. If a group of neighbors has a tower, they could have Internet for one dollar a month, as simple as that.

The Freedom Tower project gained media and community visibility during the occupation in Zuccotti Park last year, as the tower provided Internet access to Wall Street occupiers. Actually Wilder was taken into police custody –and so was the tower– on November 15, when the police cleared the park. The tower and Wilder’s backpack disappeared that night.

The Free Network Foundation recently won a grant to keep developing their project. They have done the math: it would take 70.000 freedom towers to connect the whole country. And it goes further: “we don’t have a tower in Cuba yet, but we have friends doing research and working there…”, they say.

Categories: Case Studies, Reflective Posts


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