Beyond the Last Mile: Fonias Juruá Project – an HF Digital Radio Network Experiment in Amazon (Acre/Brazil)

This chapter presents the experience of Fonias Juruá Project which applies digital radio on High Frequency (HF) to provide information and communication infrastructure to a rural Amazon community under-served by regular/commercial information and communication networks. We outline the historical and political background of the project and describe the novelty of the technical solution that is being developed. The beyond-the-last-mile image is evoked not only to acknowledge the material conditions of the lack of Internet connection in a particular locality but mostly to propose a critical framework to address and to question the paradigm of inclusion as an imperative for underserved third world/global south areas. Aiming to highlight the centrality of the spectrum governance and spectrum appropriation for community networks discussion and to foster exchange on the potentials of digital radio technologies as network solutions the project’s experience is situated among relevant historical and contemporary initiatives in Latin America that articulate in different ways – local/community; popular; public; free; illegal/subversive – radio transmissions, Internet appropriation and direct interventions on the spectrum.

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Activism in Landscapes – Culture, Spectrum and Latin America

In January 2013, an ordinance was published by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Campinas (SP, Brazil) initiating a civil investigation against Rádio Muda FM, a free and independent radio station with its studios in the State University of Campinas. 1 The investigation was initially based on the 9.472 Bill of 1997 which states that one who “develops telecommunication activities clandestinely” could face up to eight years of detention. This situation, far from being unique to Rádio Muda, is a regular practice towards unlicensed radios in Latin America. Hence, the criminalisation of small-scale broadcasters shows us what is at stake when it comes to the use of the common good under the responsibility of the state. This sort of privatisation of radio space is also a criminalisation of aesthetics, as the infrastructure used by many to express themselves is determined by institutions. Consequently, the free use of a technically open infrastructure and the alternative organisation of parts of society are being rendered illegal.

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