Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?
The Internet

Wireless Freenets 170

i8u writes ""It's hard to tell whether these things are a threat or an opportunity for ISPs. I'm talking about community wireless networks using inexpensive 802.11b radios and antennas operating in the 2.4 GHz spectrum band, and possibly other license-free bands." "
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Wireless Freenets

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    For the most part, the last mile problem is a condition of artificially-imposed scarcity. The problem is not technological or even technically speaking economic, but political. The telcos (especially ILEC) have been so used to gouging consumers over the last century that they are loathe to abandon outrageous profit margins. We see this with DSL pricing. In my locale, 1.544Mbps/192Kbps ADSL circuit is $60/month. A so-called T1/DS1 uses HDSL, which is in the family of digital subscriber line technologies, but the cheapest offering here (Richmond, VA) is $900 just for the circuit, and another $200 or so for the 'Net connectivity. What accounts for the difference in price? True, a DSx circuit has service-level agreements, line conditioning, et cetera. But does this account for essentially a 20x difference in price? NO! It's simply the fact that the telcos wish to protect their profits. They're so used to protected profits that they're not going to charge even twice average cost -- they're going to charge many, many multiples of average cost. The technology is here, folks. The demand is here. The greedy, avaricious telcos are simply too scared to sacrifice their sacred cow.
  • No that will kill the ISPs cause NOBODY will pay for metered Internet access.

    Yup. That's why you don't see anyone on the 'net who's from Australia.

    Oh, wait...
  • traceroute to (, 30 hops max, 38 byte packets
    1 darthnixon ( 0.440 ms 0.345 ms 0.335 ms
    2 ( 20.747 ms 14.013 ms 20.106 ms
    3 ( 26.025 ms 40.027 ms 53.671 ms
    4 ( 20.961 ms 10.138 ms 10.061 ms
    5 ( 13.996 ms 11.272 ms 11.920 ms
    6 ( 17.750 ms 15.407 ms 16.339 ms
    7 ( 22.251 ms 22.191 ms 22.083 ms
    8 ( 23.629 ms 24.732 ms 37.005 ms
    9 ( 32.146 ms 54.067 ms 25.307 ms
    10 ( 26.722 ms 54.764 ms 24.293 ms
    11 ( 25.471 ms 26.778 ms 23.528 ms
    12 ( 28.825 ms 29.871 ms 26.805 ms
    13 ( 35.940 ms 36.067 ms 95.215 ms
    14 ( 36.802 ms 38.673 ms 54.242 ms
    15 ( 61.247 ms 37.135 ms 43.602 ms
    16 ( 48.555 ms 38.662 ms 41.014 ms
    17 ( 51.246 ms * 30.896 ms

    That's from my home machine via an IP Masq firewall to my school's webserver. Hopping from Ithaca, NY to NYC, and all the way back.

    PING ( from : 56(84) bytes of data.
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=0 ttl=64 time=89.879 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 time=114.872 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=64 time=35.780 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=3 ttl=64 time=60.567 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=4 ttl=64 time=85.152 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=5 ttl=64 time=107.716 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=6 ttl=64 time=30.185 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=7 ttl=64 time=53.987 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=8 ttl=64 time=77.156 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=9 ttl=64 time=101.429 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=10 ttl=64 time=24.926 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=11 ttl=64 time=47.711 msec

    --- ping statistics ---
    12 packets transmitted, 12 packets received, 0% packet loss
    round-trip min/avg/max/mdev = 24.926/69.113/114.872/29.890 ms

    That is pinging my Symbol AP from my laptop, with a D-Link DWL-650. No other users on the AP, and it is 5 feet away.

    PING ( from : 56(84) bytes of data.
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=0 ttl=64 time=89.879 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 time=114.872 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=64 time=35.780 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=3 ttl=64 time=60.567 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=4 ttl=64 time=85.152 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=5 ttl=64 time=107.716 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=6 ttl=64 time=30.185 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=7 ttl=64 time=53.987 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=8 ttl=64 time=77.156 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=9 ttl=64 time=101.429 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=10 ttl=64 time=24.926 msec
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=11 ttl=64 time=47.711 msec

    --- ping statistics ---
    12 packets transmitted, 12 packets received, 0% packet loss
    round-trip min/avg/max/mdev = 24.926/69.113/114.872/29.890 ms
  • Stick with your cable modem. WLAN latency is BAD. 80+ milliseconds just to the AP. As opposed to 30 or so to any reasonable endpoint with a good cable modem.
  • Well, I think you'd find a lot of people aren't having a problem with the "last mile" and getting connectivity. My problem is the last 3 and a half miles between my apartment and the CO meaning I can't get DSL.
  • A friend lives down the road from me(half a mile, if that), but behind several rows of houses. Even using a directional antenna, is there much chance of communication through brick/cavity block walls? Oh, and throw in plenty of trees and leaves.. Cork City is too hilly!
  • I guess they could keep buying new NICs but that would get really expensive.

    Or they could flash a new MAC into their NIC. A lot of NICs implement that ability so that you can use them in flail-over systems - if the primary nic goes down, you change the nic on the backup one to be the same as the one that went down, and even the DHCP server doesn't see the difference.

  • Why would it NOT be legal???
  • ... with an ad-hoc "scatternet []" using Bluetooth?

    Of course, if you're operating an ISP from about your person then you'll need your Dockers Mobile Pants [].

    Regards, Ralph.

  • by JayPee ( 4090 )
    I think they're fun. The University I work at is setting up wireless access all over campus within buildings with normal access points and out-doors with the use of large outdoor antennas. Luckilly, I live a block away. With the use of a nice direrctional antenna, It'll be faster than the cable or DSL we have around here, and even better, free.
  • ... is obviously ISPs charging per MB of traffic.
  • If the entire Internet was on a wireless network.

    No, it wouldn't. The lag would be too high, as you have a skip on every wireless hop. If you want to have features like security or, for instance, static IP addresses, it would be even worse, as the extra complexity would have to be handled by servers (or routers or other thing-a-ma-bobs, just not the radios) at every access point.

    That way, no one would have to pay a monthly fee for broadband Internet accessThat way, no one would have to pay a monthly fee for broadband Internet access

    This would only be possible with a *huge* (think worldwide, actually) movement. So big it would probably collapse under it's own size. Remember there's interference from the different access points, and they are not really standardized on stuff like how to switch a mobile from one node to the next (actually, many do not even *have* the option).

    Now, if you could coordinate efforts to standardize "handover" (node switching) and fight interference (these two issues are related, actually, so you'd be better off solving both simultaneously), you'd still have to achieve enough node density, which means more radios, antennas and servers, which raises the cost again.

    All in all, I don't think it's going to happen soon. If ever. But for _users_ to be able to access the Net at moderate to good speeds here and there, it beats the hell out of cellular.

  • For the same reason I abandonned my land line for a cell phone, I would be all over this. Why in the world would you want to be locked down to a particular location in order to use a phone or use the Internet?
    As devices become smaller and smaller, this is going to be a much bigger deal. Even now, wouldn't it be cool (if it weren't so dorky) to whip out your laptop on the bus and browse web sites while you have nothing better to do?
    Wireless Internet? I can't wait!
    Join my fight against Subway's new cut! []
  • Not neccessarily. An ISP can provide a fast wireless connection on the cheap to a fat pipe that they pay for. For example, an ISP buys a DS3 pipe and provides 802.11b access at $25-35 month. Now they can be as big as a DSL provider (speed wise), without the same infrastructure cost.

    On a smaller scale, a T1 shared among 30-80 homes is pretty cheap, and thus a small-town in the boondocks can allow faster internet connections without waiting for Ma Bell to truck DSL out there.

  • Does 802.11b have QOS provisions? I mean, I wouldn't mind sharing my connection, but if I'm paying for it, I want priority. I know that the further you are from the NAP, the slower your speed, but I wouldn't want my connection to be swamped every time the bus stopped on my street...
  • Once you start networking subnets together, you have to have real IP addresses (or put the whole network behind a series of NATs, which is fairly ugly).

    You also need to start running a real routing protocol, e.g. RIPv2 for small networks or OSPF for larger ones. Once it gets complex enough, you need BGP to handle multiple exit routes to the Internet, and you're at the level of complexity of a reasonable size corporate network. Certainly doable but would be a significant effort for hobbyists, compared to the reasonable cost of just buying an Internet link.

    You could also look into mobile ad hoc networks, which do the routing setup automagically, but they are still in the research stage and mainly aimed at local area networks.
  • by Cato ( 8296 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @10:21AM (#79171)
    IPv6 is most likely to take off in 2003, when UMTS Release 5 starts being deployed - UMTS is the European 3G mobile phone standard, and mandates that any device that does multimedia must use IPv6 (ordinary phones can just use IPv4 behind a NAT, as they do now with GPRS in Europe). This is one of the key drivers for adoption of IPv6, but it will take a while before IPv6 filters into corporations and the home through the influence of IPv6 phones. Internet-enabled appliances might also be a driver for IPv6 but I'm not sure they'll sell in sufficient numbers.

    Most router vendors (Cisco, Nortel, Ericsson, ...), and most OSs (Linux, Solaris 8, FreeBSD, Windows XP, ...), already have IPv6 support, though some vendors are taking time to add the full set of routing protocols on top of IPv6.

    For WLANs, IPv4 with NAT will be fine for some time.
  • Exactly. Those wireless folks are going to need a fat pipe to the Internet, and they're going to need it at a rate that UUNet et al won't touch.

    This will be the excuse that will let some rural ISPs afford to upgrade to that T3 they've been wanting, so they can sell a few T1s out of it without crowding it too much.

  • WLAN latency is BAD. 80+ milliseconds just to the AP.

    myrddin:~$ ping lurker
    PING ( 56 data bytes
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=0 ttl=127 time=2.7 ms
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=127 time=2.7 ms
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=127 time=2.7 ms
    64 bytes from icmp_seq=3 ttl=127 time=2.7 ms

    ('myrddin' is on a 100Mbit/s ethernet; to get to 'lurker' it has to go through a Linux-based router and a Nokia access point, and across the air. By comparison, it's 0.5ms to the router, and 10ms to the first hop after the cable modem.)

  • Insecure? As hell.

    True to the nature of hack it together yourself projects from spare parts, duct tape, and super glue.

    Tis better to be silent and thought a fool, than to open
  • I guess they could keep buying new NICs but that would get really expensive. So that's a good solution.

    Not really, since there are a some NICs out there that you can reprogram the MAC addresses.


  • Well, don't know about DC Metro (where I am also) but I'm pretty sure that the Virginia people will have it made (especially the folks around Hearndon where AOL is). Given that I can't even get asymmetric DSL or cable where I am, there probably wont be as many kind hearted souls with bandwidth to spare... But give me an email and maybe we can coordinate!
  • Cool, you gotta free 802.11b network, I hop on and proceed crack a half a dozen sites and then launch a DDoS against /. for good measure.

    When the police knock on YOUR door, what do you tell them?

    "I wasn't me, honest! I run a free service! No really!"

    Nevermind that, what do you say to the Adobe lawyers when the Illustrator sites gets defaced from your net?
  • This sounds like a very fertile idea (read: Mod Up like you've never Modded before!). Can you go into some more detail? (Perhaps by e-mail?)
  • Done it before and I'll likely do it again. Toronto is both easy and difficult as the lay of the land means that not even the big phallic tower is a perfect site (ask Look)

    I've done this with the street on which I live, letting me surf from my palmtop while I wander (using some very fancy antennae - 180' panels) but when you say "Toronto" you're talking about a greater area than the approx half of a major block that I can reach.

    Email and I'll either tell you how to do it or point a directional at you.

  • I'm guessing your DSL is priced based on the assumption that you don't use it 80% (or more) of the day. Can someone confirm?
  • by PapaZit ( 33585 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @12:52PM (#79182)
    I've been thinking about this myself. Basically, we have a system where someone has to be responsible for each node on the internet. By providing public access, you are responsible for the traffic that flows through your node. So, you want to minimize harmful traffic. I see two ways to do this:

    1) Proxied free access to port 80 outbound only. This way, you get rid of the spammers and slow down the script kiddies. Eventually, someone will end up using it for fraud of some sort, so it'd be good to use a proxy to at least prove that it wasn't you. Your ISP will boot you, but good logs might keep you out of jail.

    2) Quasi-free access. A setup like the above that redirects any HTML request to a web page that asks people to sign up. Use the standard list management routine of "give me an email address. I'll send mail with a code. You return that code to me." Link that to a hardware address. Then, give registered hardware addresses access to anywhere. Again, through the proxy to save your butt if they do something bad. That way, you can at least hand the police an email address.


  • 5GHz is NOT going to be released this summer. Th hype is being released this summer. Don't expect REAL products until next year.

    They will NOT be cheaper than 802.11b.

    Yes, they do allow 54MB/s, but the range suffers drastically.

  • Actually there are many cards and OSes that let you change the Mac address. Tulip cards. Intel EtherExpress Pro 100 Almost all cards for a Sun This is a short list of the top of my head. Also, flashing the firmware on a NIC usually changes it's MAC
  • There is always the "Co-Op" model. An organization could be setup to help "setup" co-ops of people to purchase bandwidth on the internet.

    Run them as companies that pay dividends to the members. Where I live, most services are provided by co-ops....
  • Actually, most wireless 802.11 NIC's don't. That functionality is disabled in the card's firmware. My best guess as to why is to prevent users from building their own wireless to wired bridges with cheap ($130 or so) PCMCIA cards, instead of purchasing more expensive purpose-built bridges ($300+).
  • Yeah, but what if you don't need a Mac running MacOS? You restart the Mac (or it crashes), and everyone loses connectivity. Also, you can't connect external antennas to airport cards (but with Airport 1.3, Lucent Orinoco cards are treated like airport cards, so that would solve that problem).

    And the "Mac with an Airport card" that can stand in for a $300 access point will likely cost at least $1000.

  • Are you kidding me? An 80ms ping is fast as hell..and I've NEVER seen a 30ms ping on a cable modem. EVER. Not in my 3 years of usage or my 1 1/2 years of installing them on new cable systems. Anything less than 200ms is perfect for your favorite FPS.

  • I have thought about this as well - but if you are in Mesa, the chance that me and you could get together and connect is pretty well nil. I live up around the 101 and Cave Creek Rd - so, there is Squaw Peak as well as possibly the South Mountain range in the way (depending on where you are at, possibly) - "A" mountain might also be in the way, though unlikely - basically, SP and Camelback mountains would be the big hurdles, unless we could find someone out in Scottsdale (to the west of me, about half a mile - litterally in my back-yard - is a mountain, so nothing to the west)...

    But yeah, here is someone else who has thought about setting up a 2.4 GHz or laser link of some sort in Arizona - mainly the Phoenix area - surely there are others?

    Worldcom [] - Generation Duh!
  • What technologies exist to facilitate the ablitly to provide guest access to everyone within range of my xmitter, and to coordinate other free resources like mine in my area, i.e., to provide roaming, etc., like current cell providers can?

    Are you sure you want to open your wireless 'net to all and sundry? Anything that they do is going to be tied back to you - sending death threats to politicians, posting kiddie pr0n, or (God forbid!) posting DECSS.

    I've got 802.11b at home, hooked to my cable modem. All my computers (ok, both of my computers and my PDA) can share the broadband anywhere in the house, on the porch, in the garage... but I've got the encryption enabled not because I'm stingey with the bandwidth, but because I don't want some script kiddie three doors down getting me tossed off my ISP/cable company for DOSing Amazon or somesuch.
  • Don't sweat it. It's not like you are the only one to ever hit "Submit" a tenth of a second before you spot the obvious error in your comment.
  • Donating it. Do you really think you're using the full potential of your DSL line all the time? Just think if everyone who had DSL set up a Wireless NAP and dedicated half their bandwidth to it. You'd be able to get Internet access all over most metropolitan areas. It wouldn't save you any money, but it'd be damn convenient.


  • by zobo ( 60591 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @09:27AM (#79193)
    The folks at are working on the security issue with some GPL'd software ( that authenticates in a reasonably secure fashion, without having to trust the local gateway, and assigns three classes of service: Node Owner, Community Member (other node owner), and Guest. Bandwidth allocations and firewall proxies are set based on the class of service.
  • I'm fairly sure there are enough of us in the DC Metro area to roll out something like this. Perhaps we should start a small web site or a mailing list for a beginning?

  • My neighbors would be tired of me walking into their house by mistake.

    "Remember, our house is painted Ecru, yours is Antique Lace!

  • <karma-whore>
    Robert Cringely did a couple of articles (here [] and here []) on using 802.11b to get broad-band to his (relatively remote) house. </karma-whore>

    On the good-for-ISP side of the equation, it sounds like this could be a very simple solution to the "last mile" problem...

  • Yeah, yeah. Sorry.

    I previewed my post, decided I wanted to put some of it in bold: "This is extremely cool!" and flubbed it. I feel stupid.
  • This is extremely cool!

    What exactly stops people from setting up a router to talk to other radio routers? Isn't the possibility there to completely remove our dependence altogehter on big companies providing us bandwidth? If I want to talk to you and there are seven people in between us with radio-based routers, why do we need the big telco's at all?
  • by bwt ( 68845 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @11:05AM (#79199) Homepage
    Certainly doable but would be a significant effort for hobbyists, compared to the reasonable cost of just buying an Internet link.

    Sounds like less work than, say, writing you own OS kernel. Seriously, every city has people out there in the work force doing this stuff. I bet a few of them are interested in linux and the open source movement. They could cooperate pretty easily , it seems.

    This sounds like the kind of thing that a good LUG could easily organize.

  • The 5GHz stuff I've seen descriptions of generally has shorter range and higher price than 2.4GHz. Some of that's just new-equipment pricing, and will come down in price as there's more of it on the market and development gets amortized more, but the bandwidth is partly a tradeoff with distance and number of simultaneous users. Besides, if you're feeding the thing from a DSL line or 10Mbs Ethernet or in-between cable modem, it doesn't make much difference whether you've got 11Mbps or 22, 54, 70, or 108 Mbps.

    Software is also an issue - 802.11b tries very hard to look like an Ethernet card with a few extra hooks, but the 802.11a stuff wants more of the complex processing done by the CPU, in a WinModem-ish fashion, which says there'll be some major issues getting Linux drivers done for a while unless one of the two maufacturers decides it's worth helping out a lot

  • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @01:43PM (#79201) Journal
    You'd be surprised how many people can share a megabit of bandwidth if they're only doing email and web traffic, not file system sharing or good-quality video or serving popular web sites. The only places there are serious bandwidth issue are modems (duh) upstream bandwidth on cable modems, and the cable companies have responded to this by serious Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt policies (IMHO, they're stupid and self-defeating - they need to find every approach they can to get users to want always-on fast bandwidth.) Some DSL companies feel the same way, but many have more of a clue. The FCC's basically not involved in this, and there's no reason they will be. Cable companies can do nastier FUD without FCC help, and they really want the FCC to stay out of their game, especially as they try to roll out telephony ([Expletive deleted]CALEA FBI wiretap rules seem to apply to them, unfortunately.) And telcos only care about connect time on modems, not traffic levels - some of them are playing PR games discouraging connect time, especially if they also sell DSL, while others have figured out that they make more money selling second phone lines to modem users.

    It's true that the FCC are a bunch of spectrum thieves, who nationalized spectrum in the Roosevelt days to protect the big-money communications companies from competition (even if they made lots of hype about protecting the public's interest in the public's airwaves), and US and European spectrum regulators figured out that the hype about Next Generation Wireless Services could be used to put a big hidden tax on wireless telephony and low-speed data services, which is showing up as huge debts by cellphone companies, just in case any of them weren't getting themselves into debt trouble investing in the fiber bandwidth glut :-) In some countries that will play out as higher wireless costs; in other countries the wireless costs will be enough higher that they'll kill off any of the overhyped high-speed wireless data services and the spectrum buyer will go bankrupt or give up and resell their spectrum at a big loss.

    Fortunately, there's enough unlicensed spectrum to build some reasonable collections of services, but it'll take a lot of coordination. Metricom / Ricochet tried for a while; unfortunately they couldn't make enough money at it, but maybe another generation of providers will succeed, using faster commodity equipment. It's possible to do freenets if you can find a way to coordinate them (tough). But Starbucks is starting to offer commmercial wireless services for $X/month, and so are a few other companies, targeting either the coffeeshop market or the airport market, where there are enough business users with laptops and possibly wireless networks. Not much help if you live in the burbs, but here in San Francisco there's a law requiring a Starbucks on every other block, so if you live in the dot-com live-work loft district, that may be an attractive way to get service. For urban residential areas, where there's enough density for wireless nets to work, it's hard to say whether freenets or businesses will be more successful.

  • don't deny child. if you're a geek, you're a geek. but i don't see why you needed to download pr0n in a TGIFridays.
  • Maybe I'm ignorant, but hear me out.

    I remember when the first 1.2 Ghz or so cordless phones came out. It was amazing. I could be about 100 yrs away and get perfectly clear phone conversations. Then EVERYONE started getting them (hell, they cost about $15 now), and maybe it was the new phones I had bought, but the quality got worse and worse...

    How will these higher frequency ranges handle more and more users? And while millions of users won't be moving to the 2.4ghz range for data/ISP's, what will happen to their data connections when the masses decide that their current cordless phone is too static-filled and move to the higher range phones? Will this traffic disrupt the data transmissions and cause the wireless equivalent of dial-tone busy signals?
  • by webword ( 82711 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @09:38AM (#79204) Homepage

    I Network, Therefore I Am [] by Robert Cringely

    Reach Out and Touch Someone [] by Robert Cringely

    More resources from his two articles:

  • This is actually creating a new network infrastructure; connectivity wouldn't just be through commercially leased connections, but could also be routed over this wireless itself. Since you control the routing, you could allow only certain hosts. However, what wireless lets people do is set up a network without laying down cable. Which then happens to include portable devices, which could roam about networks which trust the user logged into it. The question is how to do this, and securely.
  • I am on San Diego RoadRunner. I play Counter-strike and get pings around 40ms to the server most times. The worst I get is around 230 when I play on a server in Belgium. RR here is very good, but I cant wait till next month when my new home is done and I can have a static IP via DSL
  • If you read your service contract (nothing you signed, but what your provider sent you in the mail after you signed up), they probably prohibit you from connecting multiple computers to your standard consumer level DSL

    Not to say that most people don't ignore this rule (I've been a party to several myself), but if whole neighborhoods (minus the one sharepoint subscriber) started cancelling their DSL, the telcos would start enforcing.

  • Insecure? As hell.

    And how is this different from most Internet users? I got off an ISP who had their OWN Windows boxes shared with the world...

    As if dial-up is 'secure'..

  • Ahem. Please read more carefully.

    80ms is ping to the access point. Throw in the rest of the internet (since odds are the counter strike server you're playing on won't be running at that AP) and you're looking at significantly higher pings.

  • How do they know you're NATing anything, btw?

    Detecting NAT is fairly easy I would think. Proving that it is NAT is probably much harder. See, the way nat works is thus (simple explanation, probably not 100% accurate) The client computer makes a request to the Gateway box for a page at port 80. So the gateway sends out a request originating at a random port in a given range (my box defaults to 40000-60000) for our example we will use 42000. So when /. replies to our request, it sends its reply to port 42000. So if you see a box that has a large number of connections all going to crazy high numbered ports on the same box, it is likely that this box is doing NAT. It would likely be much harder to prove definitively that this is NAT rather than just a lot of random network connections, but it might be possible.
  • I can use as much of mine all the time (and have). I also have a friend on road runner cable who has been using full bandwidth for about 3~4 months running a popular server. I think its just that they plan most people will use relatively little bandwidth.
  • by rjsjr ( 105611 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @09:27AM (#79212) Homepage

    802.11b freenets are great and I by all means encourage more people to open them up and run them (I have a little one running), but they are hardly a realistic threat to ISPs. The simple fact is that WiFi just doesn't have enough range and penetration to make significant coverage economically feasible ad-hoc. It takes a lot of placements to get decent coverage, particularly when leaves, many walls, and most other obstructions attenuate the signal a great deal. Hell, look at all the money Metricom had to pump into getting decent coverage (different tech, but similar range issues).

    If you look at the major freenet networks (such as SFLan [] and BAWUG [] here in San Francisco or others []), their actual coverage is really quite tiny. Sure, you can find a good number more by war driving around the city [], but that hardly gets to the point that were making a dent in the ISP revenue stream. While I'm optimistic on their expanding and the radios improving, what percentage of SF residents realistically would have usuable signal strength in their homes in 1, 2, even 3 years out?

    If you do decide to run a freenet, get an external antenna with some decent gain, though WAP antenna connectors have to be proprietary, most are just reversed DNC or the like. You get a pretty shocking increase in range and penetration even with a 3db omni and a lot less sensitivity to the wireless card's orientation (which is all to often flat and sub-optimal for pickup). A lot of the freenet spec out relatively expensive hardware (< $1K for SFLan), but a little antenna hacking can get most any WAP to reach out for semi-decent range.

    Regards, RJS

  • If the entire Internet was on a wireless network. That way, no one would have to pay a monthly fee for broadband Internet access.

    Let's start our own network...
  • I've found this site [] which focuses on WiFi and the laws that the FCC has. It expains what you can and can't do and the types of gain that you can add to them. I found that it clears up a lot of the questions that I had about it.

    For you goat-phobes: 4G_Band.index

  • Remember that back in the Fidonet days, we Sysops had to pay for uplinks to other Fidonet nodes that were long distance from our BBS or our link to FidoNet. It wasn't always free. I would always absorb most of the fees since doing the BBS thing was a hobby, and that was just part of the deal.

    I want to setup a wireless LAN myself, and wouldn't mind paying a small amount to an ISP. However, that can only go so far with limited use.
  • But, you have a private network, mostlikely used by a few people (correct me if I am wrong). We are talking about having several hundred users all activly using their connections, some of them heavily.
  • karma whoring was the last thing on my mind... I still am curious what people's thoughts are on this subject... time to browse the rest of the messages I suppose
  • I just came back from some training about network stuff and the instructor often posed many scenarios for us to work through. He would often state how there were problems with this or that network (not always a computer network) that were 'solved' by charging for access when there normally was no charge. Several examples involved network managers who noticed that if they charged (or just threatened to charge :) departements for their network usage, (including a fee per email, or for email size) that many of the problems in the network went away. hehe, sounded funny at first, but then he explained how the major usage was non business, or just spammy business related. The end result not only improved network performance for all but also resulted in more efficient business dealings and processes.

    Now, many examples of this were given, and I mean MANY, but I recall the instructor mentioning that while he sees this as a solution, that he wants a less painful one that can result in the eventual free use of network access (including voice and video).

    The thing is... when people see a medium as unlimited (in this case network bandwidth [access]) they tend to use it very inefficiently. "Sure, let me download these 2 Gig files and see 'if I like them'". Woah! You may have great access, but you will negatively effect others on the network (both source and destination). Plus what about the hardware serving up you binary delights? We all have experienced the horror of 100's of emails that say little more than "Me too!" while 'helpfully' quoting the entire history of the mail message in the rest of the body. The same thing happens in other aspects. Voice? People stay on the line while they pinch a loaf or watch TV, video?... they get bored and go cook a snack while keeping the connection open. Or they just download every bit of info they need and basically 'Cache the Net'... or rather Store the Net.

    So, how do you provide free access in a non draconian manner without sacrificing the very access you desire to bestow. "Sure, I got that 'thar inter-net thingy, but it is slower than my great-grandpappy's bowel movements and just as reliable too!" Well, enough of that... anyway, I look forward to any comments on this (links are always welcome).

  • by wizman ( 116087 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @09:29AM (#79219)
    As the proprietor of a wireless ISP, I can say we have a difficult time keeping our own towers from interfering from each other. Even though 802.11 has 11 channels, only 3 of them can co-exist peacefully. Luckily we have an RF engineer on staff, who with the right antennas and network design can eliminate these problems, or work around them. With lots of these "mom and pop" freenets, they will definitely interfere with each other. Also with a large number in an area, and all broadcasting the "world" SSID, you may roam to another access point with a different subnet and loose connectivity.
  • You can in fact change the mac address of most newer cards, although it's probably not a good idea since mac addresses are registered with IEEE. I believe it can be done with ifconfig on most 3com cards. I'll have to find the links....
  • This could give the term 'mom & pop ISP' a whole new meaning. A few problems, though...

    1) If you have several access points in a neighborhood, you may have trouble with RF interference, as these have to share a limited range of the bandwidth spectrum

    2) IP routing... In addition to the access point, you'd need to set up some sort of IP address translation. Most everyone's going to use the same address space, so two access points in the same neighborhood can result in two users with the same IP... not a problem, until one of them picks up his laptop and walks across the street, whereupon his connection switches to the other access point. These things operate using the same kind of technology as a cell phone. You switch access points like you switch cell towers as you move.

    The best solution I can see is for neighborhood groups to organize and cooperate between whoever sets up the access points. People with the technical know-how to get around these issues are uncommon, even among the general high-tech population. Luckily, it's pretty easy to learn the ins & outs of wireless. Unfortunately, it's NOT so easy to learn the ins & outs of cooperation.
  • or we start using IPv6
    The blinding speed at which IPv6 is being adopted makes this a likely possibility. Good point.
    Seriously, last time I worked with any of this technology, there was NO support for IPv6, and not much talk of it ever being supported. My take on it is, it'll happen when it happens. In the meantime, learn to deal effectively with IPv4.
  • Err...I suppose until the whole network was up. For a while, there will be some pretty isolated areas outside of radio range.

  • True. There will be some areas that are out of reach. Of course, Sysops were paying for the line for us to dial in on too.

  • by don_carnage ( 145494 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @09:40AM (#79229) Homepage

    Could this be like the old days of Fidonet where we were able to transmit email without having to pay access fees?

    If we establish local 802.11b networks that connect to each other in every neighborhood, then we won't need ISPs. Of course, someone will have to pay for the bandwidth to the internet backbone eventually, right?


  • by Docrates ( 148350 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @09:18AM (#79231) Homepage
    1- Last mile connection has always been a problem for telcos because they aren't profitable. it is the service that is profitable (so the cost of the last maile has to be subsidised)

    2- Therefore this can only mean good news for big telcos and ISPs

    3- Oh, but what if a lot of amateurs just setup a bunch of these and it's free and people don't have to pay for it, are the telco's and ISP's screwed then?

    4- Nope. the problem with spread spectrum and other no-license-required frequencies is that, well, no license is required, meaning there's no control over it and eventually they get saturated. so all a telco or ISP has to do is install plenty of these cheap antenas when enough people are using it for it to matter, make sure that those antenas are a tad more powerful than the amateur ones and presto. you took over. ever seen what spread spectrum looks like in El Salvador (and no, San Salvador is not some ugly middle of the jungle place like most americans think)? Caracas? Rio de Janeiro?

    5- Once this is done, the demand for this either crashes (due to poor connection quality because of interference), or the big companies steal all the a price.

    hmm just re-read the post and kinda sounds like a troll. that wasn't the intent. sorry.
  • How does a wireless network handle people who are out to destroy other users' experience? It's not like you can unplug someone from a wireless network.
  • ISPs can sell DSL or T1 service to these guys. I would love to have that account.
  • by sulli ( 195030 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @09:36AM (#79252) Journal
    Huh? Why?

    802.11 works great. It generates traffic, right? So ISPs should be delighted that it's out there, because it will lead to more users on more high-capacity lines in more locations. I sell DSL for a living and would be thrilled to have freenets buying my service (AS LONG AS THEY PAY THE BILLS). Where's the downside? I don't see it.

  • by sulli ( 195030 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @09:41AM (#79253) Journal
    You may be violating your ISP's TOS if you only have one IP address and are NATing it out to Joe User on the street. If you have multiple IP addresses and let random people use them, I don't see the problem.

    Now if someone starts spamming or DOSing from your account, and you get booted off your service, that will also be your problem. You are responsible for whatever goes down that wire.

    (Full disclosure: I work for an ISP offering DSL service; our TOS behave this way, and I'm sure your ISP's do as well.)

  • by stickboy3k ( 197685 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @10:00AM (#79254)
    Yeah I wish I didn't have to pay a monthly fee. I live in the small village of Dundee, MI and I'm paying 69.95 for my 802.11b "broadband" connection. Plus the 200.00 deposit on the antenna and wireless network card, plus the 99.95 install fee. Yeah, free would be nice, but I don't see it.
  • I believe that most wireless access points allow you to allow/block users based on the unique MAC address of their ethernet card, so you could ban 'bad' users based on that.

    I guess they could keep buying new NICs but that would get really expensive. So that's a good solution.

    Of course you can always password protect your wireless net too.

  • Yes, I'm aware that if I follow my TOS, I probably can't sell it. But can I legally GIVE it away?

    My DSL provider gives me 7 IP addresses - what's stopping me from assigning 6 of those via DHCP to whoever happens to use my wireless network?

  • by jchristopher ( 198929 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @09:25AM (#79257)
    Okay, so I've got some spare bandwidth on my DSL line. If I throw down $300 for a wireless base station, what are my legal liabilities if I provide free access to anyone who wants to use it?
  • It's hard to tell whether these things are a threat or an opportunity for ISPs.

    Hmmm... devices that allow many numbers of people share the cable/adsl bandwidth being charged to one household means increased
    traffic and decreased customer accounts for
    the ISP in question.

    Call me crazy, but I imagine the ISP's will see this as a threat.
  • 802.11 works great. It generates traffic, right? So ISPs should be delighted that it's out there, because it will lead to more users on more high-capacity lines in more locations. I sell DSL for a living and would be thrilled to have freenets buying my service (AS LONG AS THEY PAY THE BILLS). Where's the downside? I don't see it.

    I have a cable modem in Florida on RoadRunner. I pay $45 a month (or so) for it. I regularly get download speeds of 250 kiloBYTES per second and up. Do you know how many people could share this one connection for normal internet use? A lot!

    Without a freenet setup, those people would have to pay for access. Therefore my [as of yet theoretical] freenet is taking money directly away from ISP's.
  • by ageitgey ( 216346 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @09:59AM (#79266) Homepage
    I'm all for people setting up their own off the cuff wireless nets in their neighborhoods and such, but wireless will only get you so far.

    If you have a clear line of sight and a amplifier/directional antennae you can get your little wireless cards to go for miles. That serves as a good way to link different nets, but there are some other good ways to connect you and your friends at higher speed.

    - Get an unused pair of copper from the phone copany that connects you and your friend, get two old ADSL modems off of ebay, and hook it all up for a cheap, reasonably fast link. You can also do the same with just bulk copper wire you run yourself (or so I hear, never tried it). String a few of these together and you could get your own psuedo-backbone for your town and add wireless access points off of it in different locations.

    - If you are really old school, you can do the 300/1200bd HAM packet-radio thing. Pretty good distances, but not much good for anything except checking a couple text emails.

    Anyone got any other good ideas?

  • I have a 2Mb WAN AP in my home office (which is in the front of my house). I put the three IP's I leave available on my DMZ, and let my neighbors use it to surf on their decks. If I lived somewhere other than a bougiouse yuppie neighborhood/town [] I'd invest in an antenna to spread the wealth.

  • What will kill this is ISPs charging per MB of traffic

    No that will kill the ISPs cause NOBODY will pay for metered Internet access. Numerous companies tried and failed and realized that folks simply won't go for it and there will ALWAYS be someone else out there offering flat-rate service taking your customers.

    My guess is they will try to ban use of the link by others who aren't part of your household or on your property or some other bullshit that won't be encforcable.

  • Yup. That's why you don't see anyone on the 'net who's from Australia

    Ya - I should have said in 'NOBODY in the US' since many other countries havce had metered phone service for years. We got spoiled by flat rate phone service and now demand it for other communications services. But I still believe in teh US, anyway, metered ISPs are a non starter regardless.

  • by GuyZero ( 303599 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @09:18AM (#79282)
    You know, with the huge use of the 2.4 GHz band, I gotta wonder if these networks will really achieve any decent throughput. Sure, I know, they use spread sprectrum to get over all that unpleasant "noise" stuff, but look what you've got on 2.4 GHz already...

    • 802.11b. And maybe lots of it in some places. You can only have so many overlapping networks before performance degrades.
    • 2.4Ghz cordless phones. By FCC regs, these can transmit as much power as an 802.11b card, so it only takes a few of them in your neighbourhood to start running over your wireless LAN.
    • Cordless anything. Keyboards, mice, gamepads...and funny, what are these usually right next to... your 802.11b card!
    • Microwaves. Which can pump out a shit-load of power and noise into the 2.4GHz band
    • Other industrial ISM-band equipment
    While you can boost performance by using a high-gain directional antenna and putting it up high (like the top of your house) the legal limits on trnasmitted power are still really low - like 1 W RMS (according to the article - I thought it was 1mW RMS, but my memory is bad). I toyed briefly with the idea of setting up an 802.11b antenna on the top of my new house as I work fairly close to where I line and it would just be, you know, cool. But it's expensive and the only way to really get decent range is to use a number of cells (and I don't have the capital to build out a city-wide network) or crank the power, which is fine by me, but technically illegal.

    Anyway, I don't really have enough spare time to hand-roll and antenna like these freenet guys, so I was thinking about buying one from HyperLink Technologies [], but then I'm too cheap to do that.

    Anyway, sounds like fun. Anyone building one in Toronto?

  • I always felt that the Internet was meant to be free. I understand that there are organizations out there who have invested a lot of money laying out fibre and such, and they deserve a hand for helping us get to where we are today, but in the end the Internet was always meant to be a forum where everyone has equal rights to voice themselves, and to hear what others have to say.

    I'm not against bandwidth providers. What I am against is the high prices (or difficulty in getting bandwidth) which keeps so many off the 'net. Perhaps this is a solution to the 'last mile' problem, where we end up tearing up city streets everywhere to lay out new cables all of the time.

    If the technology is there, I'm all for consumers taking over control of bandwidth. Let us set up our own networks. With our own networks in place, we will be able to escape things like government censorship, corporate control, and hopefully, telecom monopolies.
  • Most everyone's going to use the same address space

    Well... there's 2 other choices. There's the 172.16.x.x which I use at home, and the 10.x.x.x (which obviously has a lot more 'space') which we use at work. Why not use the 10.x.x.x instead?
  • Companies don't lay down backbones as a public service, they do it to sell bandwith and make money.

    I agree, but you obviously didn't read my post. The Internet was not created for the benefit of these companies. I recognize their right to exist and to make money, but I do not recognize their rights to control content, or to control who can view that content.

    The Internet was created as a research tool. It was intended to connect people together. These companies did not create the internet. They provided us with a great service in connecting us to the internet in the past, but laying out a backbone is not an excuse to run a monopoly. Hence, these companies are, in many (not all) cases, abusing their power over users, and it is suggested that they may be outgrowing their usefulness.

    I suggested that the community create their own networks. Ones that are run by the community, with free access for all. Inevitably you have to connect to another network, but that's the name of the game when it comes to the Internet, since there is no single global network which connects to everybody. Rather, everybody connects to somebody else, and eventually a path is formed.

    Obviously the community can't create a cross-country backbone overnight, but get enough people together and it should be possible to first connect within the cities, and then eventually to expand outwards once the network gains power.
  • Given that most of the things you're interested in communicating with are more or less on the horizontal plane, you could make a directional antenna which just avoids shooting much energy at the sky or the ground. A vertical colinear is one such antenna. With that, you should be able to get 1000 feet range pretty easily; you can probably do better if you're willing to sacrifice some gain in the across-street direction for better gain up and down the street.

    Pick up some ARRL antenna manuals and see if you don't get some ideas.

  • by Spamalamadingdong ( 323207 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @09:47AM (#79292) Homepage Journal
    the legal limits on trnasmitted power are still really low - like 1 W RMS (according to the article - I thought it was 1mW RMS...
    That's 1 W or +36 dBm ERP, which is equivalent to 4 watts (36 dB over a milliwatt) in the most favored direction.

    There are a bunch of problems that will have to be solved before this can really work in the real world. They are:

    1. The "hidden transmitter" problem. If the system uses anything like a collision-detection system, two units which can't hear each other can repeatedly disrupt each other's attempts to reach a third one which can hear both of them. You've got to have some kind of arbitration or polling system to deal with this, and only polling works well at high densities.
    2. Access to limited resources. Having 5 MBPS access to somebody's AP is nice, but if you've got 10 people trying to work through the associated 768 kbps DSL to the internet, you've got a serious congestion problem.
    3. Allocation of resources. If someone's DSL provider charges by the unit of traffic, who's going to pay the extra fees to keep the AP open to the public?
    4. The solution to some of those issues is to route traffic over the air from AP to AP instead of going through the wired network, but that only works if you're not too many hops from "home".
    Some of these issues have been faced by hams with their pioneering work with packet radio, but it's all got to be adapted and re-implemented to suit the medium.
  • Except for the fact that the bandwidth would be shared... Can you imagine all of the people in reach of one of these stations sharing the ~7MB/sec bandwith? Bleh!
  • Out of curiousity, is there any easy guides as to how to set a long-range network up? I'm not talking about those multipage guides for sending messages across the Outback to see what kind of bandwidth you can get -- I'm talking something simple for my suburban block, big enough to get everyone on but small enough not to disturb too many wireless phones in the spectrum.

    By the way, I sold my Lucent wireless LAN for a 3Com HomeConnect one. I'm finding the connection isn't as strong, but the setup is way easier (my Lucent had a nasty habit of fighting with my DHCP server. There were packets being run constantly.) Do I merely have to take a screwdriver to the thing and solder a piece of metal to the antenna, or what?

  • This is a real chance to get us an ISP-less network that is relatively immune to attacks to the service provider. It is quite public-though, and easy to monitor; together with applications such as FreeNet [] which automatically encrypt communications and decentralize data storage from individual nodes, this could provide a nice extension of the Internet into ubiquitous, free (as in speech & beer) network coverage. At least when there are enough participating nodes.
  • by standards ( 461431 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @09:18AM (#79308)
    The problem is going to be corporate-sponsored litigation against freenets.

    The argument has been made that these freenets should operate with the same purpose as the telephone infrastructure, and as such, such a freenet must abide by the quality of service regulations that are imposed on a local telco. Of course, such freenets aren't yet designed to take over the local telephone company, but they do take away from their profits.

    The FCC, which is in bed with the local telcos, has a solution. Limit the capabilities of consumer-grade wireless networking equipment, and where not possible, ensure that the spectrum isn't adequate for true public use.

    Just you wait, this is going to get a lot of Washington lobbys all fired up. It's already begun.
  • WLAN.pdf this is a good document outlining 5ghz and 2.4
  • I think there are still a lot issues that need to be worked out before we can really have complete wireless networking capabilities. Removing centralized control and going in for ad hoc networks give rise to several issues at the medium access and physical layers that are not observed in wired networks. There seems to be a significant drop in capacity of such networks when the user population increases. My (limited) knowledge of these problems stem from this (The Capacity of Wireless Networks []) paper and work related to it.
  • remember, at one point they talked like that about the interenet. Another thread mentioned ip conflicts. the best way i see around this is distribution based on mac address, which never ever ever changes unless you change the adapter. If you do this, then the federalies could impliment some kind of forced registration. I also mentioned incryption and permissions in something else i mentioned.-In order to get rid of disreputible people and big pains, you do some form of encryption and accont control, and lock these people out. They won't be able to access the network unless they have the permissions, and if they try they will only affect the local access point (1) and no more. I know youll talk about accounts being traded, but as soon as someone is spoted just lock them out and if it was realy a big issue you could lock the mac address out- in which case they would have to buy a new nic every time. Or even more complex, a client app that gets the proccessor serial number, and logs it, and requires that information to get on. the truth is there is always a solution.
  • by robiewp ( 468153 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @09:02AM (#79322)
    Don't forget that 5ghz wireless is being released later this summer, and it's suposidly going to be cheap. It's capable of 70 something mbs, even if they do limit it to only 50 something. This will make 2.4ghz wireless even more economical by driving the prices down, not to mention if you wanted to you could spike up to 5ghz and do larger relay networks with higher capacity.

1 Mole = 007 Secret Agents