Building Broadband Infrastructure from the Grassroots: the Case of Home LANs in Belarus
This paper describes the development of residential Internet infrastructure by communities of citizens in Minsk, Belarus, in Eastern Europe. Sharing resources and technologies these communities created infrastructures from the grassroots that became an alternative to an undeveloped and hardly affordable provision of Internet-access provided by Internet companies. This grassroots network became the main source of residential broadband Internet access. During the 16 years of their development (1994-2010), home LANs grew to connect a million users, created a number of important Ethernet innovations and established mutually profitable cooperative relationships with private providers and municipal organizations. This paper focuses on the innovative aspects of home LANs and describes this solution to the development of the local grassroots Internet infrastructure. The case study provides an example of user-driven innovations for the ‘First Mile’ that can address aspects of the digital divide and social exclusion, despite a variety of resource-based limitations.