Peter Bloom - fellowship review

by SF Team, 1 September 2017

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Created by Palabra Radio (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Since the first community network the team established in 2013, Rhizomatica has made considerable progress in three key areas.

Peter Bloom is addressing a social justice issue he has experienced first hand. Mountain villages in the province of Oaxaca, Mexico, were all but cut off from the world, having no mobile phone connections and relying on 2 or 3 fixed telephone lines servicing an entire village. For mainstream telecoms providers it is not worth their while to incur infrastructure costs to reach these isolated communities. Living and working in the area, Peter founded Rhizomatica to empower and enable communities to take control of their own telephony.

Since the first community network the team established in 2013, Rhizomatica has made considerable progress in three key areas.

1) Practical - In close collaboration with local communities, they have built, maintained and are now breaking even on 20 community owned and operated mobile phone networks. Local custom and a shared understanding of common good(s) are cornerstone components in addition to the technology.

2) Policy - The team has managed to shift policy at a national level in Mexico, allowing them to operate within a legal framework that both encourages and protects the rights of communities to have access to affordable, readily available telecommunication. The first ever community mobile phone network operator licence was issued to them. Rhizomatica is now making important inroads to replicate this policy success at the ITU and selected other countries.

3) Scale through replication - This idea, and the implementation model constructed by Rhizomatica, has now spread to 4 countries through local communities and regulators taking it up, with support from Peter and the team. Because the model is open, each country, even each instance, can adapt the model as it suits them while taking advantage of Rhizomatica’s experience in Oaxaca.

Individually each would have been a notable achievement, but the holistic view taken by Peter and his team has resulted in a strong model which covers the bases needed for this to become a viable solution in a variety of contexts.

Peter’s work is a Fellowship follow-on for us from alum Steve Song and Paul Gardner-Stephen. Their work on Village Telco and the Serval Project helped us - the Foundation and the broader telecoms activist community - understand what was possible and how we might get there. Peter could start from the foundational assets they created (and released openly), which accelerated the pace at which he could test and evolve.

Peter, Rhizomatica and their growing partner network will continue to adopt and adapt this model to truly serve communities in need of being connected, or simply in need of being connected on their own terms. We are excited to continue to learn from and share this process.

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