June 17, 2013 | By Adi Kamdar and Jillian York

Open Wi-Fi Comes to Tunisia: Ex-Dictator's House Turned Into "openwireless.org" Hotspot

The Open Wireless Movement has come to Tunisia!

When former Tunisian dictator Ben Ali was ousted, the Tunisian Internet Agency (ATI) was quickly transformed from an institution of control to one of openness, reversing the oppressive censorship policies of the Ben Ali era. Similarly, the ATI's building—once a private home of Ben Ali—is now being transformed into a space for citizens to innovate.

Inside the basement of the building is #404Lab, a hackerspace that reclaims the space where censorship was once conducted. On Saturday, June 15, the space was launched in an event attended by both local hackers and allies from around the world, including EFF's Jillian York and Seth Schoen. Moez Chakchouk, chairman of and CEO of the ATI, was present to dedicate the space to innovation, inviting hackers to "occupy" the building.

To help set the tone of openness, the #404Lab is hosting an "openwireless.org" connection. This open Wi-Fi connection will allow anyone in the community—neighbors, travelers, and fellow hackers—to easily get on the Internet. The Open Wireless Movement sets out to spread the availability of free wireless Internet connections in an attempt to promote sharing in a privacy-friendly and secure fashion.

We're hoping #404Lab's and ATI's embracing of open wireless sets the tone for all of Tunisia. Currently, many Internet service providers (ISPs) in the United States forbid their customers from sharing networks outside of their households. And countries like France and Germany have harsh policies—largely because of copyright—that prevent citizens from having an "unsecured" network.

But the benefits of open wireless are plenty: whether it's a future where your wireless device can hop from network to network without having subscribe to heinous, invasive cell network plans; or a future where emergency networks don't have to be spun up because they're already there; or a future where students don't have to go to their local fast food restaurants in order to do homework.

Tunisia has the opportunity to forgo any detrimental policies against open wireless—whether on the level of the ISP or the law—and we're exited to have the Tunisian Internet Agency's support. #404Lab's joining of the Open Wireless Movement will help spread the ideal of a Tunisia—and a world—with ubiquitous wireless Internet, and we hope to see "openwireless.org" networks pop up throughout the country.


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