“Like most people, Kim Thomas has a broadband connection at home that she uses to check email, surf the Internet and stream music and video,” Kate Murphy reports for The New York Times. “But unlike most people, Ms. Thomas, 56, a program director for a charitable foundation in Portland, Ore., has no monthly bill. All she did was buy a router and rooftop antenna, which not only granted her free access but also made her part owner of the infrastructure that delivers the signal. Total cost: about $150.”

“Ms. Thomas is a participant in the Personal Telco Project, one of a growing number of community wireless mesh networks in the United States and abroad,” Murphy reports. “These alternative networks, built and maintained by their users, are emerging at a time when Internet service providers are limited in number (some argue monopolistic) and are accused of cooperating with government snoops.”

“A wireless mesh network is essentially a network of a bunch of interconnected wireless routers, or nodes, which propagate traffic between users and also broadcast broadband service from nodes that are wired to the Internet,” Murphy reports. “Of course, once you leave the mesh network’s confines and point your browser to Facebook or Google, all bets are off. You’re just as vulnerable to surveillance as anyone else. Like capillaries to an artery, mesh networks may ultimately connect to the Internet through typical residential or commercial Internet service providers like Comcast or AT&T. But increasingly mesh networks are linking directly to the Internet’s backbone to achieve greater speed and eliminate middlemen gateways and their restrictions. This is the case for the Freedom Network in Kansas City as well as many European mesh networks including FunkFeuer in Vienna, WirelessAntwerpen in Antwerp and Freifunk in Berlin.”

Read more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “David G.” for the heads up.]