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User-operated Internet Fund

Allow users to collectively own, operate and rewrite every aspect of the technology and network infrastructure they depend on.

This page contains a concise overview of projects funded by NLnet foundation that belong to User-operated Internet Fund (see the thematic index). There is more information available on each of the projects listed on this page - all you need to do is click on the title or the link at the bottom of the section on each project to read more. If a description on this page is a bit technical and terse, don't despair — the dedicated page will have a more user-friendly description that should be intelligible for 'normal' people as well. If you cannot find a specific project you are looking for, please check the alphabetic index or just search for it (or search for a specific keyword).

The User-Operated Internet fund is aimed at establishing technology commons which allow users of the internet to operate and improve every part of the technologies they depend on.

This ranges from free and open source software to open hardware, so feel free to check them out and use whatever you find in whatever way you need - everything is licensed in such a way that you can study, use, modify and share them.

The User-operated Internet Fund is made possible with financial support from the PKT Community/ The Network Steward and stichting Technology Commons Trust.

Interesting in applying for a grant yourself? Check our active theme funds, such as NGI Zero Core or NGI Zero Commons Fund. Applications to this particular fund are currently closed and no new projects are accepted for now. Donate to help us fund more projects like these.

Armbian — Versatile OS for ARM-based single board computers

ARM-based single board computers, first popularised by the Raspberry Pi, have resulted in an ever increasing ecosystem of small computing platforms that are low-cost yet increasingly powerful. This makes them popular with many computer enthusiasts and electronics tinkerers, also in low-income regions of the world. Armbian Linux provides an actively maintained and optimised Linux operating system for these devices, based on the Debian family of operating systems. This uniform base allows the devices to function as e.g. a router, the core of a 3d printer or as the heart of a low-cost laptop. Armbian has a unique custom image building tool. In this project, the Armbian community will create a new generation of armbian-config - the critical core component that configures the hardware and software features.

>> Read more about Armbian

Canarytail — Warrant canary standardization and automation

As decentralised internet access provisioning and cloud services become more widely available and user-operated, more and more people will be forced to compromise the security of their users through various forms of legal coercion. A common form of such coercion across the world is a so called 'gag order' : an operator of an infrastructure of interest (for instance a community network or small ISP) is secretly forced into give wiretap access, and their lips are sealed because of the risk of a severe penalty of sometimes years of imprisonment. In other cases, raids may have been conducted on hardware and operating premises, meaning a service is no longer trustworthy at all. Obviously, depending on where you live or what you do, such a compromise can endanger the lives and safety of many.

In most countries it may be the case that one can be legally forced not to speak or write about such a violation of the integrity of a service or network, but one cannot be forced to actively lie either ("you have the right to remain silent"). One proven effective means of countering this kind of attack on services is therefore to continually publish "all is well" statements, until something happens - at which point the reassuring statements dry up, and users are warned. Canarytail tracks, documents and automates these statements, and is an attempt to standardise this important safety net for users of any service - decentralised or not.

>> Read more about Canarytail

CeroWRT II — Make Wi-Fi routers faster and more reliable

When we go on the internet these days, we often forget or even don't know what gets us there. Hidden in our broom closets and underneath the sofa, there are physical devices like wireless home routers that can make a big difference in how good our internet connection really is. This project is about upgrading the quality, security, and queue management of home routers - continuing the work of Cerowrt that successfully re-architected the Linux WiFi stack to include pioneering new Flow Queueing (RFC8290) algorithms that successfully reduced working latencies for WiFi at all rates and ranges by 10x or more. This improved throughput under contention by a lot.

Since then, in addition to support in all 3rd party linux based router firmwares, like OpenWrt, a multiplicity of commercial products such as those from eero and Evenroute appeared based on these technologies, and the same algorithm was also adopted by Apple in iOS and OSX. Meanwhile there have been two new generations of WiFi, dozens of Linux kernel releases, new drivers and abstraction support for new chipsets, vendor offloads (such as those from Qualcomm) and other separate re-implementations, and many new features added elsewhere in the stack, since. The core make-wifi-fast project members, led by Dave Taht, will investigate and explore and extend the state of WiFi anno 2021, and investigate whether these algorithms are still working as intended, what new problems have cropped up, and to add in new features and methods polished since the last release cycle.

>> Read more about CeroWRT II

Telecommunication in HF using the Internet Protocol (IPoHF) — High-throughput software-defined wireless telecommunications

This project will develop a software-defined wireless telecommunications system optimized for IP transport on the High Frequency (HF) band for very long distance links using ionospheric propagation. The system will be composed of a software-defined modem with different bandwidth options and modulation variations, which can adapt to propagation conditions and spectrum availability. The media access control and data-link layer will be developed with a focus on optimizing the transport of IP packets for lower latency and higher throughput. IP-based services performance on top of the proposed system will be evaluated and tuned. Also, security aspects will be considered for a secure automatic link establishment procedure. In order to provide the highest possible throughput when considering the available spectrum, a cognitive channel selection and link aggregation sub-system will be implemented. The software stack will be designed to be easily integrated to any wideband HF transceiver paired with an embedded processing unit, while the IP-based network applications will need no modification. Rhizomatica has designed a wideband HF transceiver to take advantage of the proposed software.

>> Read more about Telecommunication in HF using the Internet Protocol (IPoHF)

KiCad — Professional open source electronics design application

KiCad is a free and open source electronics design application (EDA) that can handle everything from the most basic schematic to a complex hierarchical design with hundreds of sheets. It allows electronics designers to use a toolchain that itself is technically transparent, and that can be customised when needed. KiCad has already been successfully used for key open hardware projects such as the LibreRouter, the HackRF, MNT Reform and UPSAT. This project will contribute to furthering the mission of providing professional level tools for users who design electronics for a living.

>> Read more about KiCad

Local Production of Antennas for LibreRouter (LoPaLiR) — Reliable open hardware Antennas for LibreRouter

Community networks are telecommunication networks that are owned and operated by their users, which is probably the only way forward for the half of the worlds population that has so far remained unconnected because of lack of market or state interest. The, an open source hardware and software wireless router for inclusive community networks, represents a leap forward in the adoption of community networks, as networking skills are usually not present and difficult to achieve in these regions.

One aspect of successful deployment - and thus a more rich and diverse internet - is reliable, low cost antennas. This project aims to fill this niche, as isn't currently a suitable open hardware MiMo antenna design with the right gain and manufacturing features. Most open designs are not MiMo. By creating this design under the CERN-OHL license and collaborating with INTI (the Argentina National institute of industrial technology) a reliable design will be made that allows for replicable local production of high quality antennas.

>> Read more about Local Production of Antennas for LibreRouter (LoPaLiR)

LTE support in OsmoCBC (Cell Broadcast Centre) — Open source Cell Broadcast Centre for mobile networks

While having decent internet access is a commodity in some countries, in other parts of the world this is certainly not the case. When you want to run your own telecom infrastructure to change that, there are not that many options. The Osmocom project (Open Source Mobile Communications) is probably the most advanced open source solution available today. Reaching basic connectivity was a major step, but as users start to depend on this they need other facilities. Once such facility is a Cell Broadcast Centre (CBC), which is the central entity in 3GPP wireless networks taking care of all Cell Broadcast and Emergency Warning messages. This includes messages for WEA (Wireless Emergency Alert), KPAS (Korean Public Alerting System), ETWS (Earthquake and Tsunami Warning System), EU-ALERT, NL-ALERT and other related systems.

OsmoCBC is the only open source CBC ever implemented - but it only implements support for 2G/GSM networks, and not for 4G/LTE. Through this project 4G/LTE support will be added to OsmoCBC. so that operators of at least research, private or rural autonomous networks built on FOSS can notify their subscribers in case of emergencies.

>> Read more about LTE support in OsmoCBC (Cell Broadcast Centre)

GPRS/EGPRS support in Osmocom CNI for Ericsson RBS

While some parts of the world are phasing out 2G and 3G networks, the deprecated base stations get a second life in other parts. However, usage patterns have changed: while at the time people were mostly satisfied with phone calls, these days internet access is key. The Osmocom project allows to run a fully open source stack on old base stations. This project will implement GPRS and EDGE support. Especially the latter is important as it allows to deliver much higher bit-rates per radio channel, resulting in a threefold increase in capacity and performance compared with an ordinary GSM/GPRS connection. These refurbished and decommissioned base stations are the primary platform for community-owned-and-operated rural cellular networks such as those operated by Telecomunicaciones Indigenas Communitarias (TIC AC) and Rhizomatica.

>> Read more about GPRS/EGPRS support in Osmocom CNI for Ericsson RBS

Open source ePDG for VoWiFi — Enhanced Packet Data Gateway for mobile infrastructure

This project from the Osmocom community delivers an important contribution towards a fully open source mobile infrastructure, by implementing the first open source Enhanced Packet Data Gateway or ePDG. Inside the 3GPP cellular network architecture, the ePDG is the interface between the operator network and the public internet. Phones connect to the gateway in order to use VoWiFi (voice over WiFi) services. ePDG sits between the phone and the IMS core (same for VoLTE, VoWiFi and VoNR in 5G), and acts primarily as an IPsec gateway with ISIM card based authentication and key generation.

With efforts underway to create a fully open source FOSS based 4G network with a FOSS based IMS core with VoLTE functionality, having a FOSS ePDG is the only missing part for operating VoWifi from FOSS.

>> Read more about Open source ePDG for VoWiFi

Pion — Network congestion measurement for adaptive real-time applications

Network congestion heavily impacts real-time applications such as the popular video conferencing tools based on WebRTC, which we all have come to rely on during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. WebRTC is an IETF protocol that allows bi-direction P2P communication. Two peers find the best route to connect, even if they are both using a browser. This allows users to host their own conferences and share files directly from their browser. WebRTC is used by projects like Tor, IPFS and Galene.

Open source efforts in this space lack good congestion control which allows to adjust quality to available bandwidth, meaning that all users will have a better experience. Large companies consider their proprietary congestion controller a strategic asset, and don't readily share information on how it works. Pion is a fast and performant implementation of WebRTC, written in Go. This project will provide a way to measure the network quality, and adjust it to available bandwidth - and will document all the steps needed in order to empower other Open Source WebRTC projects.

>> Read more about Pion

RADIUSdesk — Open wifi mesh deployment application

RADIUSdesk and MESHdesk help to set up and manage mesh networks at scale, and are open source from top to bottom. They can be used in tandem to provide public wifi, or set up mesh networks as well as community networks. Allowing someone to flash a cheap access point and then managing it irrespective of the hardware vendor offers great opportunity for poorer communities to enable themselves in terms of providing Internet access. Existing hardware that reached end-of-life can be managed in a similar way (often much simpler) than what the vendors offer. Because there is a RADIUS server included, there is a single integrated system which is able to manage connections as well as the hardware. This enables anyone to set up an end-to-end system that can provide Internet access, with OpenStreetmap integration, alerts, and other advanced features.

>> Read more about RADIUSdesk