Creating Policy for Community Networks
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Doug Schuler, Richard Civille,
Paul Baker, George Baldwin
Helpful to consider context when making policy--there are many variations of CNs.
Types of policy:
- Internal--how organization is run
- External--how the CN relates to the users and the community
- Content--who is responsible, how is it organized, how does it relate to other information providers
Focus groups (citizens and govt. groups) are helpful for generating ideas.
George BaldwinMonterey has a large, highly wired campus with small number of students.
The school had no policy (don't ask, don't tell, do whatever), which led to having 7 different servers, some run by students from their dorm rooms--anarchy!
Campus policy supports civic networking, but no support model has been developed.
Currently, the Monterey civic network is run entirely by students, but cost recovery measures will have to be taken next year.
Richard CivilleMany issues still need to be resolved under the Telecom Act.
Farm Act was recently renewed, which offers a real opportunity for CN players in the rural United States--new money could be made available and opportunity is there for rural players to make some differences in policy
CNs should pay attention to Rule-making proceedings for:
- Interconnection Rule
- Definition of universal service (both FCC and CN definitions)
- Market-entry barriers
- Federal property availability (for routers, wiring).
Axiom 1: CNs have the responsibility to strive for the highest standards.
- Commitment to Access (free)
- Commitment to Service (reliable and responsive)
- Commitment to Democracy (promote participation in govt. and public dialogue, support free speech and privacy)
- Commitment to the World Community
- Commitment to the Future (will continue to evolve and improve the SCN)
- Freedom of Speech
- Due Process
- There are numerous funding models, including generating support from government, public libraries, public broadcasting, donations, member fees, advertising, cooperative, and the fee-for-service model, but none seem perfect.
- If we think that CNs can provide civic value,
then why can't we even discuss public funding??
Are CNs inevitable? -- they will happen if people want them to happen. We are struggling to create community--it won't magically happen, but it can happen.
Open Moderated Discussion
- It is so difficult to create policy, that it is often tempting to just do things free-form.
--from the Americans with Disabilities Act perspective (blind users)
--from the broader perspective of identifying your audience (i.e. third world users and others may only have access to text-based systems)
- The conflict between public funding and sustainability can be resolved by looking to cooperative development models. Hybrid financing and hybrid partnerships seem to be the best solution right now.
- New York State has been working with a School Community Collaborative (schools, public libraries, hospitals, and social services agencies, all working together)--ask your legislator about it. By cooperating and blending funding sources, sustainability is doable.
- Policies should be developed before you need it to "put out fires" (disaster recovery). Use the history of other freenets to guide your efforts, but tailor your policies to your organization's needs. Many policies are online.
- Online simulations might also be extremely useful--"What If?" scenarios.
- Should be sure to have policy statements on Privacy and Universal Access:
- find out if external agencies (such as the IRS) have access and whether records are subpoenable (if it is archived, it is)
- Look to non-local organizations (like New Zealand) for models, as well as at local models.
- Look at what the library profession has done (ALA Bill of Rights provides ways to deal with issues surrounding public meeting space, censorship, etc.)
- General consensus that we need a compilation of best practices.
The social and political landscape has changed, and it is continuing to change rapidly. Community networks may feel they are in competition with the commercial market, but corporate for-profit organizations cannot achieve the same level of service as CNs because:
- CNs provide a good forum for public and civic issues
- CNs provide invaluable content
- CNs provide information access to an underserved population--the have-nots.
We need to stay in the game for their sake.
- CNs provide a voice for the expression of minority, female, multicultural, and alternative viewpoints.
Reported by Emily Lenhart.