Sean McIntyre

LocalFi is a rooftop wifi network that connects neighbors without using the Internet. It facilitates neighborhood interactions such as trading, events, and chatting using an online commons only accessible from within the LocalFi neighborhood.

Successful community wireless networks in Europe sprung up a decade ago with the purpose of providing broadband Internet access that otherwise they wouldn't have access to. Consumers in cities in North America, however, are justifiably content with the state of Internet connectivity, and it's unclear how an alternative Internet service provider would penetrate the Time Warner fortress in New York City.

In her book Captive Audience, Susan Crawford lays out why there is a lack of innovation, competition, and demand-driven development in the telecommunications industry. Establishing a local network could be the key first step in challenging the industry giants, showing a proof-of-concept for a viable, reliable, alternative network infrastructure. Once it grows and the economics make sense, alternative Internet service providers could spring up and provide sustainable Internet service using the Brooklyn Net infrastructure.

A new legal framework for local networks that asserts its status as "a free commons" through service license agreements (SLA) is being developed by the Free Network Foundation. It can be thought of as the GPL for networks; by being an access point in Brooklyn Net, you agree to provide free/libre access to the Brooklyn Net infrastructure. This is a fascinating radical shift from the traditional restrictive corporate SLA typically entered with ISPs and has huge consequences if propagated globally.

I will build a mesh network in Brooklyn and Queens that does not provide Internet. I will add services, such as classifieds listings, forum, and chat that can only be accessed on the mesh network. As a result of the thesis, I will make inferences on whether or not there is use for a mesh network not connected to the Internet in a highly connected urban center such as New York City.