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This communication explores the case of Community Wireless Networks as a case study of participation to public policy through the production of techno-legal knowledge. Community wireless networks (CNs) are local, commons-based alternatives to commercial internet service providers. They are producing and informing state-of-the art knowledge in the field of computer science and engineering, economy, law, and political science. Members of CNs, through their practice and collaborations with peer users, hackers, digital rights activists, researchers and local authorities, develop and improve technologies, policies and practices. They devise new types of licensing, governance and socio-economic agreements, and as such contribute to research and scholarship on the commons. Based on sophisticated techno-legal analysis of liability, privacy or telecommunications legal framework, they may engage in advocacy to draft laws more protective of digital rights and privacy, more supportive of open hardware, or spectrum management.
We claim that the communities are ‘making’ science and policy through these practices, rather than ‘only’ technology, by analysing problems and proposing creative solutions to improve access and sustainability.
The method associates an ethnography of CNs in Greece, France, Germany and Spain with desk research on the definitions of citizen science, and theories on the relation between science and policy, in the view of informing both fields of the findings of this research, which is part of the H2020 netCommons research project supported by the European Commission.