This paper discusses open and free (libre) networks. The free software and open hardware movements are well established and known. Contrastingly, there is relatively little discussion on open/free network initiatives. Software, hardware and networks are closely knitted together and therefore it makes sense to explore open/free networks by establishing parallelisms with open/free software.
The first part of this paper presents a classification of alternative models for network deployment according to their degree of openness. Then we study the driving principles behind open/free networks to see that these principles are not that different from those found in free software development. The community-centered approach that has allowed the growth and the success of free software may also represent the key strength of open/free networks. We point out the advantages of the peer-to- peer production model found in the community networks. Finally, we introduce the Bottom-up Broadband project that has the goal to study and promote open/free networks.