There is plenty of buzz around community networking - with lots of people contributing from many different angles. Not suprisingly, the two main areas of interest are the "big picture" and the "local interest"
Local interest covers all the community activism that is needed to bring about a network project. Any community that is motivated to improve their access to the Internet needs organsing - and motivating - and sometimes guiding so that the network can become a reality. Engaging with landowners, parish councils and potential subscribers is critical and has to be done face-to-face at the local level.
Parallel with the local activists are those with an eye on the "big picture", the champions of the public interest, keeping politians informed, battling the Valuations Office Agency, scrounging grants and state aid, and beating back the encumband telcos who don't always see these community networks as being complementary to their profitable services.
There is this slice in the middle however, which doesn't seem to get much attention at all. That is the focus on technology that can be used for community access networks. There's plenty of talk about fibre networks but very little actual detail. By detail I mean, PON vs SDH vs Metro Ethernet, Layer 2 vs Layer 3, pure IP vs MPLS, multicast, transparent caching etc. etc.
Technology takes a back seat to the politics and engagement activities but it shouldn't be taken for granted. There are more ways than one of lighting a fibre!
I hope to address this here in the coming months, and I welcome input - especially if you have implemented a network, tell me how you did it and I'll write about it, or if you have an opinion on the merits of different technologies, please chip in!
p.s. do we still use the term "community" or is it all "big society" now?