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A Motley Crew Beams No-Cost Broadband In New York 250

Peter Meyers points to this article in the Village Voice, one of the best I've seen on the growing guerilla-networking scene. He excerpts a bit for your pleasure: "Along with some 30 other volunteers in a group called NYCwireless, Townsend's on a crusade to set up wireless Internet access zones: small areas, often called free networks, where people can tap into high-speed connections, without cables or phone lines, at no cost. Call it a marriage of the Web and pirate radio, forged even as big telecom interests bicker over the rights to wireless-spectrum licenses."
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A Motley Crew Beams No-Cost Broadband In New York

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  • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2001 @04:16AM (#2110888) Homepage
    It could just be my viewpoint, but do articles relating to technology that the Village Voice and other similar publications publish concern themselves more with the act of writing about doing something rather than the observed act itself?

    (and do they use tortorous sentences like the one composed above?)

  • Mile High Wireless is still a very TINY group, but we need people in Denver and Colorado Springs. We'll shoot for the entire Front Range, one community at a time. :) http://www.milehighwireless.net Drop me an e-mail specifically if you have any questions. :) numbski@hksilver.net_spam_suxx
  • If someone is interested in doing this in Sydney Australia, email crew@subliminalnetworks.com thx
  • We have the massive choice of British Telecom, NTL and Telewest and that's if they supply to your area.

    My personal choice for broadband is either BT or BT or BT and I can choose to pay £40/month ($60) for the privilege.

    So, I'm looking very seriously at WLANs and setting one up for my local area. Hell, I have the skills, I have the motivation, I just need a connection and some hardware.

    Some existing Community WLANs:



  • Considering all the talk about regulating the Internet [slashdot.org] I think that methods like this might become the NEW Internet, assuming that the governments of the world are successful at all. One potential problem I see with it is that if it truly is a free service, as soon as people start realising they can get broadband for nothing, wouldn't the system quickly become saturated? Let's hope not!

  • This is the first time I have ever seen this as a long time die hard Slashdot reader.

    This article appeared somewhere else before it did on slashdot.

    What a pity.

    www.netstumbler.com [netstumbler.com] appears to be a good site for people interested in "war driving" and wireless networking like myself.

    Im sure Netstumbler is the software used by NYCwireless members to do the "War driving" described in the article.
  • If it's the Motley Crue I'm thinking of, these wireless networks will be nothing but distribution systems for the Pam and Tommy and the Vince Neil videos
  • Hmmm... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ziviyr ( 95582 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2001 @04:07AM (#2124657) Homepage
    Whats stopping people from making their own home-grown wild internet.

    Networking stuff is CHEAP. A few people here already have their own home networks.

    Link them, leap over the technological hurdles, create an internet where big commerce does not exist.

    Sorta like hands around the world, but with cat-5. :-)

    • Re:Hmmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Faux_Pseudo ( 141152 )
      I have been pondering what it would take to make a indapendant non corp net for a bit now. All I can see is major implamentation problems.

      First we must replace the IP proticals with something more secure and expandable

      Second, net hardware may be cheap but unless we where to implament a p2pnet we would need somewhere to connect to localy. The problems of depending on a total p2p based network are plenty odvious to anyone with a cable net connection trying to download a mp3 from someone who has a 14.4 connection.

      Third killer apps are needed. Chicken != Egg

      Forth a configuration file that says app foo should use TCP/IP and app bar should use XYZ/AB. A bit simplified but you get the idea.

      Fifth, a rag tag fugitive fleat of standerds.

      Sixth, government intervention and "Protecting the children"

      Thats what I just came up with off the top of my head. It would be very nice to see such a thing take off but I doubt that it will happen.

      All of these obsticals where overcome the first time we built the net so it can be done again.

      Then again it was done again with the Internet2 but thats not for public use.

      Also remember that the original net was in 1995-1997 the Information Super Highway. Then it turned into e-business. It was not invissioned as a shoping mall but as a library. You can not take a rouge net with no central authority and keep the corp world out of it.

    • Those are your major hurdles if you want to Cat-5 it all the way down the line. The Wireless stuff, at least the high quality stuff you'd need for an alternanet isn't as cheap as wiring the apartment.
    • Re:Hmmm... (Score:4, Redundant)

      by kaisyain ( 15013 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2001 @09:57AM (#2140744)
      Networking stuff is CHEAP

      No, it isn't.

      How much do you suppose it costs to lay down some transatlantic cable or put up a satellite?

      How much do you figure it costs to put out long haul cable across the US?

      How much do you think the switching hardware for all of that costs?

      There is a world of difference between schmucks wiring up a little bit of ethernet around their house and putting up an international networking infrastructure.
  • Consume the net (Score:2, Interesting)

    by robin ( 1321 )
    There is an interesting project underway in the UK called consume [consume.net] --
    Fed up with being held to ransom in the local loop, phased by fees to ISP's, concious of community? OK so lets build a fresh network, one that is local, global, fast, expanding, public and user-constructed.
    I keep meaning to get in touch with them about setting up a node, but somehow I doubt there's much demand in the bit of London where I live...
  • A collaborative "data cloud [www.consum...etexternal]" effort has been slowly building up over the last couple of years. if I had access to my roof and a spare few quid, I know I'd be jumping into this.
  • "This is fucking cool," he says. "This is better than 3G"--the high-speed network cell phone companies are hyping. "That's not even half the speed of what we're getting. And it works."

    Its so true, but its also so ghetto. 3G, once implemented, will have multiple metropolis coverage instantaneously. I've heard about the air-port technology for public places... how does this differ from that idea?
    • 3G is an idea right now, not an implemented technology. If and when it's fully built it, you'll get a few hundred K per second from fixed outdoor locations according to the spec. 3G will cost hundreds of billions to retrofit all existing cell towers, distribute new phones, build more cells (for denser coverage), and pay for licenses. European telcos are about to all go under due to debt load from paying over $100 billion total for 3G licenses.

      The U.S. hasn't even selected the 3G frequencies yet. When it finally rolls out, if it rolls out in its current form, you'll be paying metered rates for it, plus subject to all the limitations that cell phone carriers currently insist on.

      By the time 3G would or does roll out, free and for-fee wireless networking using 2.4 GHz (802.11b at 11 Mbps and later this year or early next, 802.11g at 22 Mbps) and 5 GHz (802.11a, later this year, at 54 Mbps) will have filled every reasonable niche.

      3G might be better in the sense that it could more easily offer ubiquitous coverage. But it's not going to be better for us or for the average traveller or consumer who needs access on the road.

      When I talk to cell and wireless companies, I keep asking: tell me why, if 802.11b has 95% coverage for all the typical places people congregate and travel to and from in a year or so, why do I need to reach 98% with 3G at lower speeds and higher costs? Haven't gotten a straight or good answer yet.

    • So ghetto? At least I know that Airport and 802.11b/ WiFi are the same technology. And what the hell is "multiple metropolois coverage" anyways?
  • by Proud Geek ( 260376 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2001 @04:40AM (#2127998) Homepage Journal
    I doubt corporations will resist this phenomenon. They want to make money off of wireless, and to do that they don't need the whole wireless spectrum. Sure they'd love to have it, but all they really need is a chunk to buy and force everyone else off of.

    Instead what they will do to discourage this is they will point out, just as I will, that this is a precarious thing. It's a great anonymous platform for introducing worms and viruses into the wild, and a nice way to control a zombie army without worrying at all about being traced to your home IP. All this on top of a protocol that's as secure and solid as swiss cheese. Really, you'd have to be asking for trouble to do this.

    Actually, some companies might object: the ones who have to deal with the repercussions of this, be they ISP's having to clean up the mess, or other companies (or governments) hit by guerilla network crackers. This is very unfortunate, but it's an old principle. It only takes one person to pee in the pool.

    • I doubt corporations will resist this phenomenon. They want to make money off of wireless, and to do that they don't need the whole wireless spectrum. Sure they'd love to have it, but all they really need is a chunk to buy and force everyone else off of.

      The force will come from FCC, as it did in TV broadcasts. For 50 years 60 channels were occupied by 3 networks, go figure! It only takes a few laws, "in the public interest", and heavy fees to blow everyone else off.

    • It's a great anonymous platform for introducing worms and viruses into the wild, and a nice way to control a zombie army without worrying at all about being traced to your home IP.

      This has been said a million times before, and I'll say it again:

      He who would give up a little bit of freedom for a little bit of security will lose both and deserve neither.

      If someone wants to introduce worms and viruses into the wild, they will always find a way to do it without being traced. They could go to a library, internet cafe, college; or if desperate enough, break into someone's home and force an innocent person to assist them. The simple fact is, creating a surveillance society will not stop crime.

      With that said, I think you're right. Opponents of a free internet will characterize it as a tool of crime.

      • You're righ. As long as there is a will, there'll be ways to do things. The only reason buildings, trains, bridges, planes, water supplies, sewers, are not blowing up, being poisoned, or clogged up right and left, is that there aren't a lot of terrorists out there putting up the effort. It's not because law enforcement and secret services have everything under control.

        With WiFi, anyone who wants anonymous networking can park their car outside any apartment building, or a corporate office, hook up, and off they go. For grins, I bet they could eventually do it outside Verizon, AT&T, Qwest, or any other telecom megacorps. As WiFi becomes more popular for home networking, there'll be an unlimited supply of unprotected nodes.

        And as code red has shown, the average windows drones, or even companies like MS, are not capable of securing their computers. Having the same population securing their WiFi stations is probably an excercise in futility.

  • I don't really see how, to an ISP, this is any different a beast from splicing cables. They're both taking a single resource with the expectation of one person using it, and turning it into a shared pool.
    • Re:Pirate Cable! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I don't really see how, to an ISP, this is any different a beast from splicing cables. They're both taking a single resource with the expectation of one person using it, and turning it into a shared pool.

      That's precisely what it is - "stealing" cable access by offering it to people other than the account holder. It's rather like college students in dorms or off-campus housing quietly setting up home networks off one cable line, instead of doing the honest thing and letting the ISP know what they're up to.

      First, I can guarantee that these wireless pirate networks will be disconnected very, very soon; ISPs will not stand to see their own bandwidth and equipment costs skyrocket because some freeloaders are abusing someone else's connection. Second, there will be much whining and screaming from said freeloaders, claiming they were doing nothing wrong, when in fact it's almost certain the ISP contract clearly states that a customer cannot use their service to offer Internet access to others. Third, I bet you'll almost never actually see one of the piraters actually go out, lease a T3 or something from a backbone provider, and cover the costs of setup and maintenance of a legal wireless freenet. Why spend that kind of money, when one can simply abuse a cable connection and Fight The Man?

      No, corporations shouldn't be allowed to swallow wireless spectrums whole, but if you can't do it legally, don't do it at all. You're only hurting yourself, your ISP, your users, and any future attempts to set up a legit service. Seriously, grow up.
      • by Clansman ( 6514 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2001 @09:02AM (#2119494)
        I agree that this and other schemes will soon find themselves in licenseable territory - it only takes a bill through your local legislature to take cb etc into restricted licenced use.

        However, that said, if I have paid for 500 k then I am entitled to 500 k * all the time* - especially if this was leased line rather than dsl/cable.

        So from the isp's point of view thats all that will be taken, 500k just most of the time rather than for a few hours in the evening.

        If they are not really serious about allowing me to take 500k then they shouldn't try to sell it to me as such.

        At work we have a small kilostream link with 5 allocated ip addresses. They (BT) could't care less how many pc's route out through the line, masqueraded or otherwise because all i can do is use all of my 64k.

        What if I now connect to another sub branch across the street by using wireless ... do BT care? No, they don't. Because the impact on them is ... zero.

        The kind of "up to 512k" access that is being advertised is basically dodgy because this 512k is not deliverable unless most of the people on that switch are not using it. One outcome of local wireless networks might be the withdrawal of this spurious 512k promise - probably better in the long run.

        God this is a tortous post ...

        But I am sure you see what I am driving at.

        • I never heard anyone bitch all that much about the standard practice of most dialup ISPs not having a modem for each and every user (except for the occasional dedicated accounts that get their own modem and own number). Sure people would bitch if the ratio was really bad, say 20:1, but on average most people understood that they'd get the occasional busy signal and would try again in a few minutes. This is really the same thing...internet access sold to the public has always (and always will) used a lot of average usage ratio calculations. It simply wouldn't be possible to maintain a profitable business at the rates generally charged. This is why *real* high-speed access circuits cost a lot of money and have service agreements and all that sort of stuff.

      • That's precisely what it is - "stealing" cable access by offering it to people other than the account holder. It's rather like college students in dorms or off-campus housing quietly setting up home networks off one cable line, instead of doing the honest thing and letting the ISP know what they're up to.

        Bzzzzt. Wrong! Stealing cableTV is not the same as networking your own house.

        Splicing Cable degrades the signal ever-so-slightly for everybody else in your area. When the cable is spliced too much it will make a difference in everybody's signal.

        When you share your broadband 'net access, you only have 128k (or 512k or whatever...) to dole out. You're paying for X-kbits and dammit, you can do what you want... except violate the TOS.

      • Yeah, and if you buy a sandwich at the local deli and can only finish half, you had better throw away the other half, instead of giving it to a homeless guy. After all, giving it away is stealing. It's rather like college students in dorms or off-campus housing quietly setting up home networks off one cable line, instead of doing the honest thing and letting the ISP know what they're up to.

        I'll be you'll almost never see one of the piraters actually go out and buy a six-foot sub to share. Why spend that kind of money, when one can simply abuse a sandwich and Fight The Man?

    • What if you buy an extra IP or two from your cable company, saying "it's for my girlfriend's computer" or something, without mentioning that your girlfriend lives on the next block?

      Further, I see big benefits for heavy duty proxy servers in applications like this. With intelligent management and semi-responsible use, it's doubtful whether this would present much of an increase from the provider's point of view.

      I've been considering setting up something like this with my dialup connection. The bandwidth is silly, but people could still check their mail or chat over it, and dialup ISPs could care less what you do with the connection. A local proxy would make an even bigger difference in this case.
  • by PsyQ ( 87838 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2001 @06:38AM (#2133698) Homepage
    A recent test in Zurich showed that as long as you have a notebook with a 802.11b wireless Ethernet card, you can freely use someone else's high speed Net connections as long as your battery lasts.

    In about 2 hours of driving through central Zurich, the testers found no less than a dozen open, unrestricted corporate wireless LANs. Getting the gateway's IP was not a problem thanks to most 802.11b base station's built in DHCP server. If you live near any of these companies, all you need is an external antenna for your card and off you go at someone else's cost - and it's their own fault.

    But what's even greater is that around Lake Zurich, you can use broadband 802.11b for free, legally :)

    See the project's official site [www.surfam...argetblank].
  • by Damion ( 13279 )
    It seems that nobody has mentioned the group's website at http://nycwireless.net/ [nycwireless.net].
  • There is a mailinglist that is based in sweden called Elektrosmog [elektrosmog.nu] that has been discussing the technology and communities like this for quite a while now. We are also building a wireless community network [nora-wireless.org] in my small hometown Nora and the interest seems to be growing all the time.
  • Motley Crew ? (Score:3, Offtopic)

    by retinaburn ( 218226 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2001 @08:12AM (#2137369)
    It is nice Tommy Lee is no technologicaly inclined. Should have realized though, he is ALL over the internet.
  • by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Wednesday August 15, 2001 @03:51AM (#2139070) Homepage Journal
    i'm worried about this phenomenon being snuffed out... there are so many angles to how it could be killed: spectrum rights, terms-of-use, 802.11 security...

    i live in manhattan... does anybody want to get together with me and try to propose to city hall that these entities should be legally protected? do it fast and stealthily enough, with the right level of positive community mojo, and it could sneak under the radar of the huge corporations with vested interests and reversing it would only be a pr embarassment for them...

    people have water at home, sometimes metered, they buy bottled water, but everyone is used to the idea of the free public water fountain. why should it be any different with these little cells?
    • by sportal ( 145003 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2001 @01:05PM (#2111423)
      I put of the first NYCwireless node [nycwireless.net] 3 1/2 months ago (after seeing the article about Seattle Wireless [seattlewireless.net] here) so I thought I would respond to some of the valid the comments.

      * As far as violating the terms of service, most of the internet connections we are using we are ok, since we are not reselling the service, only sharing it to the our immediate friends and neighbors. Providers may choose to change there terms of services though. We are paying for this service, and choosing to let people use bandwidth we have already bought.

      * As far as the network getting used by to many users and becoming useless. Most of the access points have Linux or FreeBSD machines as gateways. If this becomes an issue we will just install traffic shaping software on the gateway. The goal is not to provide you with a superfast connection that will make you give up your home cable modem and DSL line to sit in the park (though that would be nice). The goal is to provide a public free open wireless network for anyone to use. Even if the network gets saturated and we are only providing each person with 10kBytes/sec, that is still double the speed of dialup and adequate for web browsing and email. I watch the bandwidth usage very carefully, and people have been very good about using the free network.

      * Wireless is not a replacement for a wired network, and free networks are not a replacement for commercial networks. That being said we are never going to replace commercial wired networks. We can provide an alternative for you to use though.

      If your interested in starting a project in your area, do it.

      1. Put up a simple web page on geocities or something.

      2. Start a mailing list on Yahoo Groups

      3. Post links to your website on the Seattle Wireless [seattlewireless.net] and Personal Telco [personaltelco.net] web pages. -That is how NYCwireless (originally RooftopsNYC) got started.

      -Maybe there is a group in your area, check: Personal Telco Wireless Communties List [personaltelco.net]

      If your in New York City, your welcome to use my node at 84th Street and Lexington Ave. Relax at the corner, or have a coffee at the coffee shop.

      www.nycwireless.net [nycwireless.net]

      • OK, I'm beginning to think really big here. So please, someone shoot me down on any point below that seems like nonsense to you:

        The best way to preserve and nurture the trend is to link the idea of free public wireless with free public spaces. What am I saying: make areas like Washington Square Park, Central Park, Thompson Square Park, Prospect Park, etc. zones of free Internet. Of course, lots of nonpublic spaces are ideal for free wireless access as well, but for different reasons that are not as symbolic.

        So then the issue becomes one of petitioning Henry Stern, the New York City parks commissioner, to pony up a little city $, and to start a volunteer program to support the infrastructure? Is that the wrong way to think about it?

        Interestingly, we have the mayor, comptroller, and public advocate up for reelection this year. There might be some election year steam that could be funneled behind this. A candidate could get a big bang for their buck by taking a stand behind free public Internet in public spaces. It would have sound bite value and would play in the press well. It is something that would be interesting to the electorate and draw positive attention. Even if only at the gimmick level (thinking cynically about politics? forgive me ;-), to raise the profile of free public Internet access in the general public is something that could do no harm.

        But then, of course, this access must be truly public. A lot of what we are talking about here is sort of "for the geeks, by the geeks." We would have to talk about truly free, public access, which means providing the terminals as well... handing out laptops in a New York City public park to ensure free and equal access is a daunting task indeed. I don't even know where to begin to think about how to make that work, if at all.

        I'm thinking aloud here, forgive me if I have missed anything, but there is so much promise and peril and I salute the pioneers! ;-)
    • Spectrum rights aren't an issue: 2.4 GHz (along with a couple other bands) are free and unlicensed subject to specific regulations (FCC Part 15) about the kinds of devices and their power output and signal type,
    • I don't see any issue.. People are setting up off the shelf equipment to do what they were ment to do. Just not in the way most people would do it (open so anybody can access it). I don't see how they could shut it down. They only thing I can see them doing is regulating it, so that you might have to have you name and address on record so if you go hacking all kinds of people you can be held accountable. Just like they'll probably track you down for peeing in a public fountain.

      I wouldn't mind setting up a wireless network for free for people in my apartment complex, but I would like their info, and i would probably give them static IPs, so in case something did happen, I could track down who did it.. No need for me to get shit from the FBI for downloading kiddie porn when it was really the guy in 1B.

      • I don't see how they could shut it down.


        1. Corporation upset that people are getting Internet access for free - hurting their bottom line
        2. Corporation donates millions to political candidates and current legislators
        3. Corporation writes law banning free wireless networks as a threat to teh Internet (hackers can run with impunity!) and the well being of the nation
        4. New media eats up the horror factor, writes totally bogus reports about how free networks are a dangerous thing. Public opinion turns against all those new age hippies with their free wireless networks.
        5. Corrupt politician takes law written by Corporation (quid pro quo for donations), puts his name on it and gets it passed
        6. Viola - American democracy at work!
    • "people have water at home, sometimes metered, they buy bottled water, but everyone is used to the idea of the free public water fountain. why should it be any different with these little cells?

      Well I expect it depends on the society you are living in. You have a valid, idealistic and really nice idea- I'd love to see it. Of course, nothing is free, somebody has to pay for it, and we pay for 'free' water fountains through our taxes.

      I imagine the idea of 'free' net access like this paid for via municipal taxes would probably be far more acceptable in social democracies (like Scandinavia) -where people generally believe in higher taxes to pay for social infrastructures like schooling, hospitals, etc. I can imagine that this idea wouldn't be as well accepted in free market democracies such as the USA where taxes aren't so well received and the model tends towards the concept of people paying for such services individually rather than as a community, through private commercial contracts.

  • ...scanning the adult playground the place becomes on hot summer evenings. Where else, he asks, can you walk around with a computer, surf the Web, and go utterly unnoticed?

    adult playground... hot summer evenings... go utterly unnoticed... sounds like somebody got kicked out of the house for looking at pr0n.

  • Pardon Me (Score:3, Informative)

    by Nater ( 15229 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2001 @06:33AM (#2139666) Homepage
    There are motley crews beaming no-cost broadband in several dozen cities around the world. Unless they've managed to slather the entire Lower East Side with access points and get a fair number of end-user type participants, what the hell is so special about New York's version of this idea?

    I'm doing this in Chicago (things are moving slowly). My personal favorites in the community wireless world are Seattle Wireless [seattlewireless.net] and Green Bay Professional Packet Radio [gbppr.org] (GBPPR has some great tech and a very experimental bent, but they won't give you the time of day unless you can convert mw to dBm in your head... fine with me).

    The way DSL is going, I can't wait for stuff like this to pick up some momentum.
    • >My personal favorites in the community wireless world are Seattle Wireless and Green Bay Professional Packet Radio

      This NYC hook-up really isn't all that much different from a couple of HAMs setting up a repeater to shoot voices a few more dozen miles because the closest repeater can't do it.

      Of course, the government owns the airwaves, you do have to get a license to broadcast packet or voice, and usually these repeaters are controlled by clubs which require membership -- all this before you can use the repeater.

      But even with all those hurdles, I'm with you. I can't wait for stuff like this to pick up some momentum.
    • What's special about our group in NYC is that things are not moving slowly, they're moving EXTREMELY fast. In three months, we've gone from 2 to 250 members. We are adding one access point a week now, and in negotiations to provide 24/7 access to some large public spaces throughout the city.

      We have developed an Acceptable Use Policy that can protect access point operators against possible misue and a number of technical information resources on our website.

      We have also made lots of contact with the press and helped to publicize this movement. (CNN, Vilalge Voice, USA Today, others)

      We're incorporating a national non-profit organization to shelter local groups from litigation and help solicit donations of funding and equipment.

      You ought to be thanking us instead of criticizing us. We're working to make this happen for everyone.

  • take the next step (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xeno ( 2667 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2001 @04:27PM (#2141798)
    Urban wireless cells are nice, but you obviously need to have a landline at some point. Immediately you run into the problem of dependency on DSL or leased-line services that may or may not permit line-sharing in the TOS. What's the next step? Get off the landline. Us urbanites need to get in touch with our suburban and hillbilly roots, and convince them to run repeaters in order to connect multiple metropolitan areas. Really.

    Here's the deal: I'm in Seattle. I looked at the Seattle Wireless map, and I could plug into the local network and just be another bump on the freeloading log. Or I could use the fact that I'm on one of the highest points in the city, and run a long-haul repeater w/~15mi range to a relative's place north of Federal Way, from there ~15mi to my brother-in-law in Tacoma, then I only need to find one willing person to bridge the haul to my in-laws in Olympia. What, four more hops to Portland? I've got more freinds and relatives down there too. Likewise, it's only a half a dozen hops north to Vancouver BC. It may not be much of a service to start, but it won't take much either.

    Frankly, this is how McCaw Cellular (now AT&T Wireless, my former employer) built much of the North American Cellular Network (NACN). McCaw bought up ~200+ local operating companies, put in *tiny* connections between them to optimize the expensive traffic, wrote software to dump local traffic where it was cheapest, and the rest was marketing (hence the "NACN" name). It is very much within the realm of possibility to do this successfully.

    I think the participation & sustainability problems can be turned around the other way -- instead of people on the wireless freenet only wanting to get off and connect out, it should be possible to build enough resources & self-sufficiency on the wireless network that people want to get into the freenet. Convince a few major businesses that there is revinue to be had by participating (just as commercial endeavors on the web were initially driven by sales of geek toys to geeks) and combine that with a rich geek participatory network mesh, and you have the foundation for a sustainable infrastructure.

  • by NovaScorpio ( 127710 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2001 @03:52AM (#2142053)
    What I'm wondering about this is how Townshend expects to support more than a few people on that connection. Let's just say he has cable. If 1 person is playing Counter-Strike, or any bandwidth intensive game for that matter, and has 5 other people surfing the net, this guy won't have any bandwidth to spare.
    And mind you, this is all coming from his own peronsal line. I don't know many people who would just go ahead and give away bandwidth to anyone for the hell of it. Regardless, for this kind of thing to happen everywhere would constitute either a huge non-profit organization with lots of funds, or government sponsoring...
    • by stripes ( 3681 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2001 @08:38AM (#2135164) Homepage Journal
      And mind you, this is all coming from his own peronsal line. I don't know many people who would just go ahead and give away bandwidth to anyone for the hell of it. Regardless, for this kind of thing to happen everywhere would constitute either a huge non-profit organization with lots of funds, or government sponsoring...

      At least under some OSes you can use something like ipfw's queue command to put all of the WiFi traffic on a lower priority queue so it will only use the bandwidth you are not using. For that to be most effective you need to set that at the far end of the connection as well, but even if you don't you can kludge it by feeding all incoming traffic through a dummynet pipe with slightly less bandwidth then the real thing and again favoring the non WiFi traffic. That will get TCP (and TCP like things) enough drops to back off.

      Using different priority queues is nice because the full bandwidth (or very close to it) will be available for WiFi when you aren't using the link yourself. If your OS doesn't support priority traffic queues you may be able to use fixed size traffic shaping.

      This of corse does raise the fixed cost a little, unless you are already doing NATing and the NAT box can do your traffic shaping.

      I would rather avoid the government sponsoring since it will either take spending from things that deserve it more, or raise taxes (or both). Plus whenever the government sponsors something it thinks it has the right or even responsibility to regulate it...

    • Well, I have a cable modem, which costs me around £20 per month. A lot of the time I'm not really using it. The connection is always on, with more-or-less the same IP address, but perhaps with some mail coming and going, nothing else, while I'm not here.
      If I had any PC-using friends within wireless range, I'd be quite happy for them to "borrow" some of my connection. To paraphrase, "512kb ought to be enough for anybody".
      Of course, we did this in Aberdeen, Scotland, three years ago using Cat 5 and a 128k leased line. Out the window of the flat where the line came in, back in my window, a floor below. There were other people going to be added in as well. Never quite got the cable across the street though. Wireless would have been great for that.
        • I have a cable modem, which costs me around £20 per month. A lot of the time I'm not really using it. [...] we did this in Aberdeen, Scotland, three years ago

        I'm in the same situation, and am very tempted to set up a consume.net [consume.net] node near Glasgow. The recommended kit is £500 (~$750) plus an old PC. That in itself is not a barrier to entry, but the problem is that I'm in a suburban area (in a ground hollow, even) and the chance of actually finding a consume.net peer is low.

        Perhaps the most valuable service that alternative net projects could provide will be to track the (approximate!) geographical locations of live nodes, to encourage people to join, or to start new clusters in the knowledge that they will soon be joined by other peers.

    • Presumably, a working concept for this would be:

      Everyone who has a wired broadband connection sets up a 'base station' ... and only those who set them up are permitted to access the system through their wireless devices.

      This should create a 1:1 environment, so it is truly "shared" and apart from density issues (which may be resolved by base station density anyway) there'd be no huge bottlenecking anywhere.

      It would certainly be incredible if this could get off the ground in a widespread capacity, and may be the only way wireless broadband will ever be achieved!

      (Then again, communism worked in theory)
      • Even better would be if every station, not just the base station, acted as a router. Now even the base stations may sometimes benefit from the increased redundancy. To top it all off, the base stations should sign up for a few billion ipv6 addresses and the whole thing should run over ipv6. Add a proxy server for ipv4 services. SOCKS if you want to let people do just about anything.

        Probably most importantly, a simple, cross-platform, standalone router should be written for people who don't know what they're doing. Just double click this installer and your laptop will have internet (ipv4) connectivity when you roam within the supported area.

        Make this as simple to set up as Richochet (or even simpler) and I bet you can cover a huge percentage of the city.

        Damn, I wish I lived in Manhattan.

        • You don't have to live in Manhattan to do this! There are groups all over the world doing this. I'm in Mile High Wireless, and we're doing it here in the Denver/Colorado Springs region! http://www.milehighwireless.net http://www.seattlewireless.net I'm sure there's others, off the top of my head I'm blanking out. Follow the trail of links my friend! Numbski
  • This article makes me think about the network we are busy with in our hometown. Practically, we are wiring up the neighbourhood with a few good internet connections, and the first signs are very promising

    As we live in a densely populated area, running UTP through to neighbours isn't a real problem. The people who want to connect pay a small fee as a compensation to the ones hooked up on the net, and everyone profits. The "clients" get fast, easy and reliable internet for a low cost, the "servers" get to use the other servers connection as a bonus. And the servers run mostly on open OS's (Linux, Open), makes routing the data between servers easy...

    Of course, it's not really legal, but it works nicely, and can grow steadily. Long life the rise of the CAN's! ;)

    • If there are so many of you doing it, then petition the township, and they can help make it legal. I don't think that they can actually make it legal, but they can force the utility to allow it with the threate of giving the contract to a different utility. Uhm, this assumes that we are talking about utility based high speed services, like Verizon DSL or Comcast Cable.

      The thought of revoking comcasts contract has come up quite frequently with local politicos do to comcast being so phenominally bad at living up to their promises.
      • nooo it's illegal in the fact that it is against city zoning laws. installing a telecommunications network without a permit, or monthly fees to the city, their kickbacks, not being inspected and approved by an inspector (as if any city has a telcom inspector that knows a datacable from a jelly dougnut)

        do NOT talk to your city, they will shut you down and fine your butt to hell and back.

        This is why many connected neighborhoods are privately owned subdivisions (canadian-lakes in michigan for example.. the "community" is owned and ran by one man and county officials cant do squat.) and this is how high-tech communities are formed or will be formed... in rural areas away from the morons we call city officials as priavate communities with a private infrastructure with signs stating that governments are un-welcome.

        you need to always treat your local government(as all gov bodies) as your enemy. and deal with them as a spy would trying to infiltrate the organization... make them think you are their friend.
  • by helzerr ( 232770 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2001 @03:55AM (#2143240) Homepage
    Wouldn't it be nice if these wireless networks became ubiquitous enough that you could use IP telephony software on a handheld as a replacement for cell phones... No roaming and 1440 anytime minutes / day ; )
    • Who do you suppose will be paying for the bandwidth all those cell phone users are gobbling up? Someone is paying for the bandwidth somewhere....
    • that's actually a pretty good suggestion for localized uses... almost akin to trunking radio (Motorola, GE/Erricson, etc...) , but the one question I have for you is, what kind of hardware are we talking about? I know that the Visor has a 802.11b module for the springboard slot, and a mic, no speaker tho.... anyone have a suggestion on hardware?
  • by ideonode ( 163753 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2001 @03:56AM (#2143241)
    This style of 'rebel' tech reminds me of some of the philosophics of Hakim Bey and the Temporary Autonomous Zones line of thinking.

    'Cellular' resistance...

  • Hopefully... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jerw134 ( 409531 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2001 @03:59AM (#2143732)
    No one person on the network is allowed to take up too much bandwidth. I could just picture some teen downloading 20 songs simultainiously off of Napster, while 10 other people are trying to share the bandwidth and getting dial up speeds. They should set up a QOS system, where each person gets a minimum amount of bandwidth, but is still allowed to burst to whatever they might need.
    • Ooh, not how I'd configure it. That effectively imposes a user cap.

      Were I playing with this, it'd be set up with maximum burst rate of (bandwidth / users * 2) for n seconds and maximum of bandwidth / users over the course of any given minute, if and when scheduling comes in to play - or something along those lines, anyway. Most of the time, most of the connections are likely to be entirely idle, after all, so there's no point in artificially restricting when the bandwidth isn't banging headlong into its upper limit.
  • by jgaynor ( 205453 ) <jon@gaLISPynor.org minus language> on Wednesday August 15, 2001 @04:49AM (#2144575) Homepage

    These "30 volunteers" would soon be branded as "30 inmates" if this ever got popular. Why? they're playing with a cool new technology at the bandwidth expense of of their educational and/or corporate providers.

    From the article:

    the Washington Square network already exists--thanks to a homemade setup [Mr.] Townsend rigged in late July in his nearby office at NYU, where he's a fellow at the Taub Urban Research Center. Townsend, 27, used an antenna to broadcast his connection a few hundred feet out into the park.

    So basically what he's doing is leeching off of NYU's pipes to anyone with a wireless card. Maybe I should look for real estate in his area.

    Any college Dorm Network Administrator can tell you how expensive reliable bandwidth is. Last month an unchecked DiVX FTP site here at Rutgers trafficked nearly 15 gigs A DAY, costing the university almost 10 grand in surcharges due to it's "bursty-bandwidth" contract. In short, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

    Due to its relatively low profile, this wireless project has and will continue to avoid radar screens in city NOCs. Apparently many people dont feel the need to download porn while sitting on park benches :). If they ever do, you can bet people like Mr. Townsend will be disciplined by IT staff, if not fired outright for violating some school network tenet.

    • In short, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

      Here, reproduced on your screen, at no cost to me whatsoever, are my words. Magic? No, just something different.

      Someone paid for his bandwith and wanted him to have it. What he does with it is a matter of his contract and state law. The University itself is responsible for policing their network and deserve their surcharges for signing so stupid a "bursty-bandwith" contract. We shall see if anyone bothers to move to the park to so they can traffic DIVX. The network admin may want to monitor his connection, but it's hard to imagine him getting upset at the proffesor for wanting to surf on a park bench.

      In the mean time, to paraphrase an arrogant smart ass, I'll serve ham sandwiches if I feel like it! Enjoy your free virtual lunch.

    • > Any college Dorm Network Administrator can tell you how expensive reliable bandwidth is. Last month an unchecked DiVX FTP site here at Rutgers trafficked nearly 15 gigs A DAY, costing the university almost 10 grand in surcharges due to it's "bursty-bandwidth" contract. In short, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

      But there is such a thing as a caching server.

      Suppose we build this p2pnet thingy. Suppose someone puts a DiVX FTP site on it. Suppose each node in the city acts as a router (any router-like software you like) and as a caching server (Freenet), and refuses to transfer data outside of the IPv6 area it recognizes as "accessible via wireless".

      No, I, in Chicago, can't grab the DiVX in the Rutgers dorm. But you, sitting half a mile away, can. The only "bandwidth" that's used is the wireless bandwidth between yourself and the node(s) that hold the DiVX. The packets never touch your Rutgers' pipe.

      If I want the DiVX, I do the same thing you do, except I do it from a node somewhere in Chicago.

      Each cluster of nodes only has to download the DiVX once, and cache it locally, provided that there's sufficient space on each node. 40G hard drives are cheap these days.

  • local networks (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hadlock ( 143607 )
    when will ther be a group like this in the dallas/fort worth metroplex? the DFW area is the ideal area for an open wireless network:

    high population density
    low precipitation
    flat land

    with the number of broadband clients in the area, one could dedicate a 20 kb stream to the open network and supply most of the metroplex with free, wireless networking. it'd also make for killer WAN parties : ) i know i've wanted a low-ping game of quake every once in a while with my friends w/in a 1 mi radius...

Disraeli was pretty close: actually, there are Lies, Damn lies, Statistics, Benchmarks, and Delivery dates.