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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

FreeNet presents at NYU conference

By Darwin Manning & Peter Sullivan

There is a phenomenon going on in the technology world that spreads way beyond what Mark Zuckerberg created. The Grinnell Free Network Movement group, founded this year, is working towards creating a non-hierarchical computer network to provide internet to the city and College.

Grinnell’s organization is the first student-led group devoted to the free network movement. Last weekend, several members attended the Students for Free Culture Conference at NYU’s Courant Institute to meet with groups devoted to a range of information-sharing goals, including the founders of Diaspora, a decentralized social network intended to have more privacy than Facebook.

The first major project is the creation of MIND, Mesh Interface for Network Devices, which would allow computers to connect directly to one another without having to go through the Internet Service Provider. This both prevents anyone from censoring content on the network and would eventually allow people in areas without internet access to gain it.

“We’re trying to decentralize the network so there is no single point that everything goes through,” said founder Isaac Wilder ’13. “We believe that network access is a human right, so our mission is to bring network access to as much of humanity as possible.”

The group hopes to have the network completed in a few weeks and available for students and city residents to use starting this summer.

Grinnell Freeet is trying to bring back to the College another idea discussed—open-courseware. Currently in use at MIT and the University of Michigan, the idea would make course materials available to everyone.

Articles on Pioneer Web currently available only to students enrolled in a course would be made freely available.
“Our motto is Veritas et Humanitas. We’re doing well on the Veritas, we’re doing great scholarship, but what about the Humanitas, what about sharing it with humanity,” Wilder said.

There are copyright issues involved in making this information available, but Wilder pointed to resources available.

“The University of Michigan has a whole institute devoted to helping schools put materials online,” Wilder said.

“This is something that seems in line with Grinnell’s values, giving people the ability to learn whatever they want for the rest of their life, and giving people the tools they need to do that,” said Dylan Gumm ’11, a member of the group.

As next steps, they plan to meet with President Raynard Kington in the coming weeks about ways to work with administration and are helping to organize another conference in New York called Contact.

In addition, work is ongoing on the Mesh network. The group emphasized that it is a step towards increasing competition and coverage among Internet service providers.

“Currently there are a handful of Internet providers, and they have broken up the cities, so basically there is no longer any competition, they have monopolized each city,” Gumm said.

Perhaps most importantly, the Mesh network could not be censored or disrupted, as the internet in Egypt and other countries experiencing highly politicized activity has.

“We’re going to make sure it can’t be shut down,” Wilder said.

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