Letters from an expat.
It seems that the assault on Community WiFi has begun in earnest here in Germany.
Just a few weeks ago, unnoticed by almost all, the European Commission issued a directive disallowing the use of 3rd party Firmware on radio equipment (relevant here are the Community WiFi Routers) if this configuration of hard and software has not been approved by the appropriate national body and requiring manufacturers to implement protection against the use of such 3rd party firmware. Since the functional requirements of Community WiFi router are very different from those of a normal router, and since these requirements to be built into the Firmware and Software - this alone will make Community WiFi very hard implement.
Today the German government will pass a data retention bill that will, among other things, disallow anonymous access to the Internet.
New guidelines for the tax office are making it very hard for organisations to achieve tax free status for building and maintaining such community networks.
So what's going on - why do we have a situation in which almost all politicians, when asked, support Community WiFi (indeed the state government of North Rheinland and Wesfalia has voted to support it, recognizing that it lowers the threshold of access to information so that everyone, even the most disadvantaged members of society, can have access.) but laws are passed which seem designed to poison the ground on which it grows.
My guess is that the answer lies with industry. They had been sitting complacently on their profits for some time - they were making a lot of money and not really having to improve services at all. Here in Münster, as in many cities, there were just a couple of hundred public WiFi hotspots that cost a small fortune to use if you weren't already signed up for other services and mobile phone data usage was and is expensive and restricted by volume.
Then came Community WiFi - within one year they had a network with five times as many public hotspots as the next largest provider. All free, anonymous, unlimited and easy to use. The volunteers had provided access for schools, refugee camps, high streets and the poor.
Obviously, that can't be allowed to continue!
Laws, unfortunately, are no longer written by politicians and parliamentary legal services, they receive a great deal of "help" from Industry and their lobbyists. This offers big business the opportunity to create a legal straitjacket for society which enforces and strengthens the environment in which they profit. It takes time, but a paragraph is added here, a sentence is tweaked there - and pretty soon big business is back to sitting on their ass making huge profits whilst the most disadvantaged members of society become further disenfranchised.
Kind of depressing isn't it!
BTW if you'd like to be depressed further by how bureaucracy is instrumental in reducing society's choices I'd recommend David Graeber's excellent "The Utopia of Rules" for further reading