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We present a mathematical model for communication subject to both network interference and noise. We introduce a framework where the interferers are scattered according to a spatial Poisson process, and are operating asynchronously in a wireless environment subject to path loss, shadowing, and multipath fading. We consider both cases of slow and fast-varying interferer positions. The paper is comprised of two separate parts. In Part I, we determine the distribution of the aggregate network interference at the output of a linear receiver. We characterize the error performance of the link, in terms of average and outage probabilities. The proposed model is valid for any linear modulation scheme (e.g., M-ary phase shift keying or M-ary quadrature amplitude modulation), and captures all the essential physical parameters that affect network interference. Our work generalizes the conventional analysis of communication in the presence of additive white Gaussian noise and fast fading, allowing such results to account for the effect of network interference. In Part II of the paper, we derive the capacity of the link when subject to network interference and noise, and characterize the spectrum of the aggregate interference.