Home wireless network keeps the government snoops away

“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.]


    1. I have found Open-Mesh-based networks to be quite resilient. I haven’t goofed with the technology in a year or so, but I would expect it to be at least as good as it was. A couple years ago, with four of the lowest cost Open-Mesh units, I plugged one into the network and strung the other three across a school about 200-250 feet apart just plugged into power, and within a minute or so connected to the fourth one down (three hops), I was surfing the ‘net quite quickly. Newer models use 5 Ghz for the backhaul between devices and 2.4 Ghz for client connections, so the bandwidth drop over multiple hops might be reasonable. Anyway, check it out:

  1. This is how Smart Metering works for some large electric utilities. The electric meters form a mesh network where the meters talk to each other and relay data to a remote data collection point called a TGB, which is a gateway for data backhaul. If a meter fails or is removed the routing is automatically changed to repair the system. It’s called “Self healing”. If a new meter is added, it checks in with the system and the routes between meters are adjusted.

    This technology was originally invented so that soldiers in battle could communicate over a smart network as they moved around the battlefield. I’ve always thought that if Apple devices became ubiquitous that an “all Apple device” mesh network might be possible, wherein every Apple device acts like an Airport Express.

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