A Hackable Network Management System for the 21st Century
In the summer of 2008 the Metropolitan City of Rome decided to start a free of charge and public Wi-Fi network to be spread over its 5352 SQ KM territory including Rome and 120 other cities for a total of about 4.5 million inhabitants. The main objective of the project, called ProvinciaWiFi (later renamed WiFi Metropolitano), was to take a decisive step to reduce the existing digital divide by fostering and facilitating the use of ICT by citizens. From the outset it was decided to commit the project to a completely open philosophy. For this reason a clear choice towards open software and operating systems and the availability of every modification, update and improvement to the community was made. The same approach was adopted for the knowledge and the experience acquired within the project. In order to pursue this goals the Province of Rome called the university consortium CASPUR (later merged in the CINECA consortium) to develop the technical solution. In this context, a research project conducted by the CINECA consortium found its perfect application. This project proposed an innovative methodology for the distribution of networks (more precisely Virtual LANs used for Wi-Fi connectivity) between geographically distant sites.
The methodology adopted made it possible to host public connectivity services on non-dedicated network infrastructures (e.g.: private xDSL) that for technical and legal reasons could not be used as such. This is not the sole advantage that OpenWISP gave to WiFi Metropolitano: embracing the resource-sharing philosophy – typical of open projects – anyone can contribute to the network expansion simply by hosting an access point.
The software tools and the architectures, including the OpenWISP 2 wifi controller and different NetJSON implementations used in OpenWISP, are released to the public free of charge under open-source licenses, we hope this will allow a broader audience to benefit from this work and improve upon it.