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Building A Community Wireless Network From Scratch 120

adelayde writes "This summer I've been involved in a project to build a community-orientated wireless network in the city of Bristol, England. Recently I published an article ( mirrored here and here) describing what we have achieved so far, including some interesting thoughts on passive repeaters. There is a supporting site (mirrored here) with detailed instructions on how to build antennae, and the main project web site is also available here. A bit of own trumpet blowing perhaps, but I think it'll be of interest to those readers involved in similar projects and be of some help to those thinking of starting their own."
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Building A Community Wireless Network From Scratch

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  • by MrWa ( 144753 ) on Monday November 04, 2002 @11:52PM (#4597346) Homepage
    How are we supposed to crush people's servers when you already have mirrors in the article?!

  • Similar Projects (Score:5, Informative)

    by kaosrain ( 543532 ) <[moc.niarsoak] [ta] [toor]> on Monday November 04, 2002 @11:56PM (#4597360) Homepage
    Similar projects for Seattle, Washington and Sonoma County, California can be found here [seattlewireless.net] and here [nocat.net], respectively.

    • by bsharitt ( 580506 )
      I wish they would replace the current network in the dorms at UAH with something like this, that way if you are using your laptop in the UC you can stay connected. Also, anything would better than the current network; I've even thought of paying the extra money to get the increased speed and reliability of dialup.

  • I remember seeing a couple of stories about being able to extend the range of 802.11b today that might be relevant here. I'll get back to you as soon as I remember where they were...

    • I think that it's quite funny how the black magic of RF is seen as a truly geekis subjectis.

      RF is not that hard.

      It's just decibels. 3db = 1/2 the noise.

      Perosnally I think perl is way harder than RF.

  • A small request. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Chris_Stankowitz ( 612232 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @12:01AM (#4597382)
    I would love to see more of these sites stress the importance of securing therse type of networks. All-in-all a good read.
  • Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Slashdotess ( 605550 ) <gchurchNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @12:02AM (#4597387)
    I was working on a similiar project [hgncomnet.org]this summer as well. We have a grant from the state and community support to follow through, if someone is really interested they could read up on the grant at the link above.
  • by ShavenGoat ( 63696 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @12:07AM (#4597400) Homepage
    A group of people, including myself, are trying to implement something similar in Reno, NV: RAWUG [rawug.org](Reno Area Wireless Group).

    These guys are way ahead of us, but if you are in the Reno area, or want to contribute ideas toward how we can setup a community wireless area here, please join our list and help contribute ideas! So far we have a couple people from Seattle and what not.

    Personally, I think it would be uber cool to have someone setup a national (or International) wireless users consortum to organise all the great ideas people are coming up with. Non-commerial and commercial ideas a like.

  • by rlangis ( 534366 ) <rlangis.geekfest@net> on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @12:15AM (#4597419) Homepage Journal
    A similar project for the Portland, OR Metro Area is located here [personaltelco.net].

    My personal node (via nodedb [nodedb.com]) is here [nodedb.com].

    Join us.
  • by xtal ( 49134 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @12:20AM (#4597432)
    Lots of articles appear on slashdot about ISPs monitoring communications for the government, shutting sites down without authorization or anything resembling due process (important if you are a US citizen!), operating system and software vendors restricting freedoms, abuses of media by government PsyOps (ack!) organizations, media conglomerates manipulating editorials, ad nauseum.

    While all of that may or may not be true, there is now a technology that can greatly reduce the reliance of the technically inclined and general populace alike on these large, controlled networks. This is the first time in history that a viable, high bandwidth technology can be bought into for a hundred bucks and some clever thought. The signifigance of that is not immediately apparent now, but I suspect it will become VERY important in the years to come.

    If you really care about getting shafted by your ISP and care about free speech this is a avenue to pursue in addition to your standard channels of protest. Set up local networks! Once upon a time, we did this with modems, call forwarding lines, and crummy XTs. A bunch of kids trading software provoked national secret service investigations. Not with the internet, but with long distance phone calls. 802.11 is making being a ham radio operator interesting again - I can play with antennas and build networks on the cheap! At 11mbits to boot! When I was in high school, I thought the kenwood handheld and a battery operated packet modem was pretty pimp - and it cost me a lot more than a d-link pcmcia card!

    If you live in a high density area, look at getting together a co-op for bandwidth. Distribute it on WiFi. Get people together and pool some cash. The networks are there, and once they're built, they only have to be connected. There is no reason that in 5 years, there can't be an alternative to commercial ISPs for bandwidth. Just as nobody thought the internet would work (what! no circuits! no central provide!), there is no evidence a widely distributed decentralized wireless network won't, either.

    Security is a non starter. Make the network all-encompassing and encrypt your traffic.

    Combine the technologies with something like Freenet (freenetproject.org), and you have a real motivator for social change (like it or not). Run more static nodes!

    My $0.02. 802.11 isn't hyped enough.
    • While I think that creating more local nets like we see here is great, it will take much more than a project like this to get rid of the "Oppressive ISPs."
      The community in the article is still getting net access through a DSL modem, so they are still beholden to the Telco powers-that-be. If enough communities were to start up projects like this, and link together using their own methods, then a new form of Internet could take shape independent of the Telcos.
      Imagine a mesh network on a national or international scale created from local nets and linked through purely public lines. Either that, or enough such networks sharing a few high-bandwidth connections along with freenet and tunnelling to make any monitoring and censorship pointless. The ISP's would have to adapt if enough communities simply shared one connection. The one's that refuse to move away from "one person/household == one account" will hopefully wither away.
      As much as the Internet has become a big part of the way we live, we must take a greater part in shaping the way it develops if we want to retain the freedom we have with it, or to gain back the freedom we had before the Internet was declared a different arena from any other global communication tool (See DMCA, COPA, the recent decree from Panama etc for examples of this problem).
    • by AndroidCat ( 229562 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @02:33AM (#4597739) Homepage
      If you live in a high density area, look at getting together a co-op for bandwidth. Distribute it on WiFi. Get people together and pool some cash. The networks are there, and once they're built, they only have to be connected.

      As a cheaper alternative, why provide any direct bandwidth to the Internet? Use spare older boxes and set-up local news, email and web servers -- almost stepping back to UUCP days. It's a little hard for The Man to control your connection when you hardly have one, except for news and email feed. The local community web sites might not be too great, but they'd be in the community, which could be a plus.

      Anyone who wanted could toss spare boxes onto your community intranet. Games servers, web sites, local small business -- And all without worrying about the pipe bill.

      And clusters of community intranets could peer with each other. :^)

      • And clusters of community intranets could peer with each other. :^) ... Who needs the internet? I can build my own internet. with blackjack, and hookers! and ... in fact, forget the internet!


        ohh, I'm such a karma whore.
    • I would argue that this actually makes it easier to intercept messages. If this is gonna be ad hoc networking with full freedom, then what is to stop someone hopping into the loop and having a listen. On the other hand, assuming there is at least a little bit of centralisation to help with security, it is not safe to assume that just because someone can set up a hub they can admin it properly. At least with ISP's they have to keep records and follow laws to a large extent. The same with the CIA/FBI/KGB etc. They have rules set too. If someone breaks them, then usually the checks and balances will bring them to the attention of the general public (or slashdot).

      Now imagine a place with no set rules, no standard recording techniques and nothing that binds them to any real legal resposibility (Note:IANAL). Remember an anonymous free system is a two edged sword, if people can do anything without beiung identified, there is a good chance they will.
      • Step one is getting the infrastructure in place, so let it run wild. Step two is securing that, and it is very easy using software like FreeNet, or even more mundane technologies like VPN. Or just encrypting the traffic you send over the public channel.

        The key assumption with any public network or wireless data transfer is that it is fundamentally insecure once it leaves your physical location. The paranoid don't even assume that.

  • by miscellaneous_havoc ( 621991 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @12:25AM (#4597449) Homepage
    My high school is buying about a dozen wireless hubs (Apple Airports) so the teachers can use their soon-to-be laptops in conjunction with the school network. It's a little extreme for a high school of 300 students and staff, but I'd like to see how it turns out. Maybe I can talk the Sysadmin and school board into letting me build some Antennae for them so I can access the school network from home to do some... "school work." ;)
    • If you can't go from the wireless to the school network to the Internet, why not? (Set it up to allow teachers to do that, I suppose.)

      Just think, you could have a school web site with all the class assignments so you (and your parents, heh) could access them from home. Handy for that "school work" right? :^)

  • by ALoverOfPeace ( 586114 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @12:36AM (#4597477)
    Just in case. [ustreas.gov]
  • by K'tohg ( 115837 ) <suki@noSpaM.tritarget.org> on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @12:46AM (#4597503) Homepage Journal

    I would be interested in resources for both the technical how-to's and the political how-to's to accomplish a community LAN.

    I have always wanted to start one in my area. If it's strait forward enough I could start one block at a time and maybe make a big hit.

    Has anyone delt with the compitition? I would assume the Cable and DSL companies would be kinda pissed seeing everyone's money go to a wireless ISP with a T3 not through their wired lines. And since they have the bigger bank it means the little guys (dispite their good intentions) can get hurt real bad in battle.

    Any feedback would be appreciated.

    • by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @05:45AM (#4598090)
      I would assume the Cable and DSL companies would be kinda pissed seeing everyone's money go to a wireless ISP with a T3 not through their wired lines. And since they have the bigger bank it means the little guys (dispite their good intentions) can get hurt real bad in battle

      I don't think they'd mind a wireless ISP with a T3, because a T3 still costs quite a bit of money. From the perspective of an ISP, a wireless or wired service looks the same if it has a T3, they don't care what happens beyond the router at the ISP itself. What they would object to is running a "community" ISP off of domestic ADSL lines. No matter what your "good intentions", ADSL is as cheap as it is because of calculations done by the telcos of how many potential paying customers there are per exchange. If suddenly there are far fewer paying customers because everyone's piggybacking on a few who do pay (even if those people do give their service away voluntarily) then the price of ADSL will have to go up by a proportional amount. Imagine what happens if instead of 10 paying ADSL customers an telco gets 1 and 9 sharing it - ADSL will have to become 10x more expensive for those that do pay, and then will they be so willing to give it away for free?

      The technology works - 512k down is a lot of bandwidth for sporadic network loads like web browsing and reading email (less for streaming video and file downloads, sure). Wireless access points are cheap, 802.11b PCMCIA cards are cheap, DHCP and no WEP means that administration costs are trivial. But the economics don't, and so-called community ISPs are going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, if they're not careful.
      • [...]But the economics don't, and so-called community ISPs are going to kill the goose that laid the golden egg, if they're not careful.

        But if you can keep the heavy traffic on the CLAN, and limit the traffic on the DSL, things may work much better. What about doing heavy caching within the CLAN and encouraging P2P amoung the CLAN members?

    • Your community LAN needs to be under the auspices of a registered nonprofit organization, and needs to have a mission statement that clearly defines it as doing something for the public good, in such a way as not to be seen by ISPs as competition. For instance, the YMCA got into trouble with health clubs because, in some cases, it was promoting itself primarily as a healthclub, rather than primarily as a nonprofit founded "to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all."

      I strongly suggest you -- and anyone who wants to engage in a community tech initiative -- contact the folks at CTCNet [ctcnet.org]; they should have some excellent guidance on forming a community/nonprofit LAN.

  • A little off topic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jchawk ( 127686 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @12:52AM (#4597514) Homepage Journal
    Really nothing to do about wireless networks, but more about this submitted article.

    If you are submitting your own site to slashdot, this is how you should do it! Have a couple mirrors handy so we can actually take a look at what you posted.

    Kudos to this guy! There really should be some kinda of prize. :-) Well there is the bandwidth bill I suppose. hehe
  • by woobieman29 ( 593880 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @01:03AM (#4597534)
    based on the fact that these Brits are using discarded J&B whiskey tins to make their 'Can-Tennas' their network roll-out parties are probably one hell of a lot more interesting than the ones we have in America with Pringles.....
  • Most of the wireless community networks mentioned here appear to be springing up along the Left Coast. Anyone know of similar networks being constructed on the other side of the country, particularly in the Washington, D.C., area?
  • Waterloo wireless (Score:4, Informative)

    by c13v3rm0nk3y ( 189767 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @01:27AM (#4597594) Homepage

    I know this has been mentioned in another post, but apropros of this article, the Waterloo Wireless [waterloowireless.org] group is (or was, I haven't heard from them in some time) trying for complete world domination at 11Mbit/sec.

    I personally think that Tim Horton's [timhortons.com] (for those of you who need a reference, Timmies is like Krispy Kreme without all the ambience) should go all Starbuck's on us and implement wireless access points in their coffee shops. Well, at least around the University of Waterloo, anyway.

  • I want to do this (Score:2, Interesting)

    by trybywrench ( 584843 )
    I want to try something like this in my neighborhood. I have a couple of friends who suffer with dialup or nothing at all while I have a underutilized DSL connection ( A gigantor monster of a CO is right down the street ). My loft building is 2 story and I have access to the roof where I can install an antenna. I live on the edge of deep ellum in Dallas ( Main and Haskell ) if anyone in the area wants to think about this over beer at The Angry Dog drop me a line.
    • Hi Mr. trybywrench, I'm a lawyer which has been retained by your DSL provider to pre-emptively send you a cease and desist letter for your possible future infringement of the terms of service agreement for your DSL service. In order to monitor your compliance with this cease & desist order, we will install a brainwave monitoring device in your home between next Tuesday and next Saturday, sometime between 8:00AM and 12:00PM, or between 1:00PM and 5:00PM, so please make sure you are available at those times. Thank you for using our DSL service.
      • ...or perhaps your brainwave monitor is OOS.

        I don't know the details about the rest of the world, but here in Dallas, we do have some very flexible ISPs. My service agreement says explicitly that I can use the bandwidth as I see fit so long as it is not illegal.
  • WiFi BBS model (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AndroidCat ( 229562 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @03:33AM (#4597886) Homepage
    The current model for WiFi community networks seems to be that of a community wireless pipe to the Internet. Now that sort of project is worthy and has it's place. The problem is cash and the pipe.

    Dropping it on an existing home-use DSL will cause .. trouble. If it doesn't violate the AUP, it will soon, and since the usage curve of a community WAN should be easy to detect.. (Sympatico has imposed a monthly transfer cap with extra charges past the cap.)

    Alternately, a group could pool/raise the money for a legit connection, but then you're talking about money and organization. More power to those with the time for it.

    One obsolete model was that of a lone operator setting up their own system and paying the costs out of pocket: The BBS.

    I ran a BBS (Coherent/Linux based) for a decade until the Internet killed BBSs. (In the end, I tried a web-based BBS, still through my two phone lines. Couldn't afford that and a pipe out to the Internet, it died.) The main kicker was always the phone lines. I could have supported a large number of users even on a 486, but I couldn't justify the cost of the phone lines.

    Now WiFi might make that model viable again. (After all, other than the cost of equipment, it's free.) WiFi doesn't have the coverage of the local telephone, but the number of "lines" are rather large.

    I'm not talking about ye olde text BBS here, of course. Times have changed as have user expectations. I just think there might once again be room for a one-person cheep operation. What it would have to offer to make it attactive to users, I leave as an exercise...

    • Just about everyone that is able to fiddle around with wifi already has an internet connection and most likely a broadband one on top of that. So I doubt that a bbs will be the killer app for community wifi, you can just have one on the WWW.

      File sharing, of course, will be the killer app. The ability to download CD's worth of info in 10 minutes seems pretty compelling.

      • CD's of info from where? From local resources or from the Internet? If from the Internet, someone is paying for that pipe. You can hide that cost under the rug for a while by getting government money, user donations, subscription fees, corporate donations. It still costs money.

        Everyone and his kid were setting up ISPs until they discovered that they had to pay for all the phone lines (and the pipe). I suspect that a lot of "free" wifi Internet connections will go the same way.

        Remember, I said that I'm not talking about old style BBSs -- no one is going to use those even if they are free. I'm mainly talking about the financial model of something that a single person can offer free with narrowband Internet connection. What that something is is something that I don't have the answer for yet. File server, Usenet feed, email, game server, proxy cache of some web sites, local WiFi radio station, live toe-cam feeds, I dunno.

        I'm just saying "I told you so" now when a lot of people are diving into community WiFi with all the financial planning of the dot.bomb era. Yes, they aren't looking to make a profit, but it has to at least pay the bills in the long run.

        1. Offer something. 2. Pay next to zero cost. 3. ??? 4. Profit! (Oh wait...)

        • CD's of info from where? From local resources or from the Internet? If from the Internet, someone is paying for that pipe. You can hide that cost under the rug for a while by getting government money, user donations, subscription fees, corporate donations. It still costs money.

          Well, I volunteer with the Independent Media Center [indymedia.org], we're a network of grassroots media activist groups and produce a lot of video, we'd have a lot of full res video to make available on copyleft terms. I would also make a mirror of a few of the free unix distributions.

          But on the more general point, of course someone will have to have an Internet connection. As I said, just about anyone at this point who will be able financially and technically to play around with wifi has a broadband connection already. Odds are they are already downloading stuff from p2p networks. That part is taken care of already.

          But that's just the short term for a few hobbyists, its not, as you point out, a sustainable model for connecting a large number of people to broadband. The model that these Bristol folks is useful, they are sharing a fast connection amongst a number of users. Since its more efficient to buy bandwidth in bulk they could adopt a co-op model. It would likely not take long for the investment in hardware to be payed off by the savings.
          • Yes, a lot of the stuff being done now is the "goofy prototype" stage: Useful stuff that needs to be tried out now as a learning experience.

            We need some sort of model that will allow people to offer what they can for free, but survive nodes dropping out over time. Some nodes might just offer a WAP to the wireless "backbone".

            Building on top of a UUCP base would certainly work. Each hop would know who to route to with alternates, and could "survive a nuclear attack". :^) But it's sure not going to provide the broadband that people have gotten addicted to. (It sure would kick ass over the original backbone that ran 56kbps.)

            Could a UUCP-based Kazaa/Gnutella be the "killer app"? (Did I just a massive coronary thump from RIAA/MPAA headquarters?)

          • Hmm, I'm suffering from Too Much Coffee right now. No need to sink back to UUCP, each node could just route packets. (The latency of hopping across town to the suck^w guy currently offering a broadband Internet pipe, *shudder*)

            There would have to be a mechanism for publishing which nodes are offering Internet access, and handling when they drop off. (The boss finds out, the bill comes in, etc.) In fact, dynamically handling the routing tables for each node would be interesting. (Surely someone like Amateur packet radio has already looked at this problem over the last 20 years?)

            • OSPF is a dynamic routing protocol which can do what you have suggested that is in common use within AS's. Seattlewireless uses it.
    • What I liked about BBSes was that some of them had FidoNet. It took a couple of days to email my then girlfriend who had gasp, (this was in 1994) a real internet account at the local university and get a reply, but it was free.

      Locally, IBM sponsored getting the fidonet traffic to the rest of the fido network.

      Is it a fair analogy to now substitude 802.11 packets for Fidonet messages?

      • Routing email like that could be interesting. (Bang paths, anyone?) I suppose UUCP actually could be used for it, lordy!

        How about IRC/Instant Messaging? You could have a Friends/Fsckwits list to let you know when someone enters/leaves a physical area. ("Yarg! Quick, hide under the table!")

  • Retro networking (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ExEleven ( 601282 )
    I was talking to a dude on irc last night about avoiding TCPA. And keeping my freedom, and stuff. We ended up talking about making a network of retro equipment. You know, PDP-11's PDP-7's Core Memory, all that stuff ;-)

    Im thinking of starting a simllar thing in the West suburbs of Melbourne, Austrlaia. Well, im in Narre Warren. But its a cool idea nontheless.

    So if you live in my area contact me, its a sweet idea, i will bring it up in an upcoming LUG meeting.
  • In the passive repeater section he mentions getting better signal by aiming the antenna at the church. In the real world we call this obstacle gain.

  • I've been thinking for a while of a community wireless network with multiple broadband connections. ie, in a Wireless network with 20 users, 12 of which have cable modems/DSL, the resources could be pooled to create maximum bandwidth and efficiency.

    For example, if I'm the only person in the street using the internet, then the network software could pool those 12 connections, using the unused bandwidth.

    Of course, this goes against the idea of broadband, where the fact that someone else isn't using the connection means that I'd get my full bandwidth.

    Would this sort of idea be possible to implement with current software and hardware?


    • At first thought, the only "problem" would be that if you were "switched" to a "new" connection, your IP address on the internet would be a different one - a situation that could cause some trouble.

      For example: you send a http request to get a file, and you get switched over to a new connection (and ip address) while some tcp packets are still travelling to your "old" ip... guess what happens :-)

      It would be interesting though for the "switching server software" to wait for you to stop transmitting packets for some time, and then switch you...

      I even wonder if it would be possible, once the handover to a new gateway to the internet was done, for your "previous" gateway to keep on forwarding any packets it may receive for you...? and even more, would it be conceivable for you to "reply" to those packets, through your new gateway that would "know" you were answering to packets sent to your "previous" ip address...?

      ... is this sort of networking magic possible at all? :-)

      • The idea I was thinking about is similar to that used by download accelerators, such as Getright - whereby it breaks the file into different segments and then compiles it upon completion. This would be similar, apart from the different segments would be downloaded by different IP addresses.

        Don't get me wrong - I'm not thinking of this to download websites or check my email. But IMHO useful purposes include:
        Downloading large ISOs
        Streaming movies while using other internet applications in the background.
        Running a server, whose packets would be based upon available bandwidth.

        And the best thing is IMO, there wouldn't be a single point of failure, as the routing/switching would be carried out by each user's Wireless Router.


    • You can get load balancing with OSPF which is a dynamic routing protocol. It doesn't perfectly distribute traffic, its more concerned with route stability and redundancy. Gated and zebra have implementations for your favorite unix-like OS.
  • Wireless is great, but how about security? It really worries me.
    Apart from the buggy WEP implemention you also have to consider it would be really easy to perform some kind of DOS attack on the network.
    Just start your laptop and start flooding the network. Or put an antenna on your microwave oven for that matter.

    How are people that are already envolved in building these networks handle these kinds of issues?


    • A captive portal with a MAC address whitelist and registration is the way to solve the first problem, nocat [nocat.net] is pretty close to implementing that for free.

      The second problem is one of physics so the FCC is the only recourse there.
      • That's a start, but it's still no solution to (for instance):

        - IP spoofing
        - Mac spoofing
        - Dhcp request flooding
        - Illegal dhcp servers on the network

        MACs and IPs can literally be sniffed in the air.
        I would say: No dhcp on a wireless network.
  • Interesting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Munra ( 580414 ) <slashdot@nospam.jonathanlove.co.uk> on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @06:04AM (#4598118) Homepage
    Being from Bristol (UK), an early wireless adopter and a computing student, this article was very interesting.

    However, I'm going to be very cynical and say that I don't see the point. What you have effectively done is split a product that costs >=£100 per month (2Mb ADSL) between 4 people. Individually it would cost those 4 people £20 each (512k ADSL for £19.99 per month).

    While I think the project is a great excuse for the use of interesting technology, on such a small scale it's ultimately pointless.

    The current aim of the project is feeble: "the aim was to prove that a portion of this connection could be successfully shared between a number of local residents or community groups by using wireless technology". Well, I could have saved you a lot of time and effort and told you it was possible :-)

    To make the project of any use (imho), it either needs to be far more widespread than it is (as you suggest, explore into other parts of Bristol), and approach Bristol City Council directly for funding/support, or there needs to be some benefit for those using it on a small scale, that there otherwise could not be. Simply giving 4 users ~512Kb/sec each isn't much benefit.

    I'm pretty sure this might get moderated as a troll (if moderated at all) but that isn't the intention. Coming from where the article is based, it's hard not to get personal about the details - and although this project has a lot of potential, it seems to be in a very unevolved state.

    Jonathan Love
    • Re:Interesting (Score:3, Informative)

      by adelayde ( 185757 )
      Hi Jonathan,

      Thanks for your comments. Yes, we only have 4 houses connected at the moment, this have proven that it works. If you have a look at the project web site, you'll see that we're making funding applications at the moment in order to install more nodes - it's a question of finance essentially. There are plans in the next month to put up several new nodes and to exetend the back-bone to cover a wider area. It is a coumminity oriented project and so anyone with the wherewithal to do so can put up a node now and get connected. If you are interest in being involved in the project, check out the web site and join the mailing list. BTW. We are and have been in discussion with the city council and are looking for funding there.
      • I'm very pleased to hear/read that you're planning to expand the idea [a lot].

        I've emailed you already with an offer of help, and will join the mailing list post-haste!

        As the other reply to mine stated, applying for lottery funding might be a good idea too.
    • Interestingly, splitting a 2Mb/s connection four ways doesn't result in 512Kb/s each, unless this is a limitation of the network cards.

      In practice, this is just a worst case scenario, for thos times when all four users want to access it at the same time. If you're the only user at a certain time, then you get the full 2Mb/s to yourself.

      As for funding - I'd suggest considering the lottery commission as well, and possibly talk to the University. They probably can't help with funding, but may have other resources. Bristol City is of course still certainly worth considering because they do seem to be keen on investing in technology.
      • Yes, do talk to the university. Apart from anything else, we have good line of sight to a hell of a lot of Bristol. I'm sitting in it (-:

        Isn't Park Street supposed to be being Wi-fied by the council already? Or have I made that up?

    • In addition to the benefit of increased efficiency in sharing the connection that another person posted about, there's the benefit of users of the network being able to communicate with each other at high speeds. That is a service which cannot be bought for a reasonable price. And as the adage goes, the utility of a network goes up with the square of the number of users connected to it.
  • Since the idea is based on sharing ISP connection with your (temporary) neighbor, there are legal issues in several countries (at least european ones): Most often the ISPs forbid their customers to share the connection with others - sometimes even within the same household. So, while there's technically no problem here, legally it is. Any workarounds?
  • by andylaurence ( 233927 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @07:38AM (#4598407) Homepage
    There's lots of seperate wireless projects in Bristol. I'll plug the one I'm involved in ... Consume Bristol [andylaurence.co.uk]
  • a bit more complicated stuff than in the article, antennae's from finland [saunalahti.fi]
  • Wrong protocol (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    As many people will no doubt find out as they scale up their wireless networks, 802.11b is the wrong protocol for large public networks.

    You should be using straight 802.11.

    The difference is that, although 802.11 runs at only 3Mbps and 802.11b runs at 11Mbps, 802.11 has guranteed bandwidth, whereas 802.11b is not guranteed.

    Most community users, when given access to anything better than 56kbps, want to stream video, download large games and do all the usual bandwidth-intensive stuff.

    The upshot is that 802.11b networks choke in situations with hundreds of concurrent users, whereas 802.11 does not.

    Add to that poor signal attenuation and vulnerability to interference, and 802.11b does not look too hot.

    With the newly announced potential to transmit 802.11b up to 4 miles away, this is worrying.

    Add to that the fact that large-capacity 802.11 networks have the ability to knock out 802.11b networks completely and you can see some interesting implications.

    How about your local community wireless network being knocked out by a large ISP so that they can sell their 802.11 accounts?

    Believe me, it's already happening.
  • Hi there, We recently started a similar effort in Montreal, QC, Canada. A small journal of our progress and press-watch is up here [sansfil.org].
  • Maybe you should call it a Community Area Network, or CAN. What can, you say? Pringles!
  • by praedor ( 218403 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2002 @11:11AM (#4599409) Homepage

    I have been mulling over the possibilities of becoming a local ISP in my rural area since getting here 6 months ago. Where I am there is no cable, no DSL of any kind, and there wont be for the foreseeable future. What IS available is satellite internet...high latency and HIGH cost. I (and my neighbors who haven't gone stupid and overpaid for satellite) am stuck with pathetic dialup with rarely better than 36kbps speeds.

    As a result, I have been considering the local ISP possibilities. It would not be free, as a connection costs, plain and simple. I would also have to maintain the servers and handhold people in setting up and trouble shooting, thus I would charge - but I would like to charge below what telcos and cable companies charge for broadband access. I would even like to undercut AOL, which I suspect at least some locals would likely currently use. Basically, I would like to charge enough to cover the costs of a T1 line (or halfline) plus a little extra for equipment costs. I see something in the line of $17/mo.

    This is based on a few assumptions: at least 100 local area families/individuals/companies interested in the service and the ability to gain wireless coverage over the important areas. This is the hitch. I am in flat country (Indiana) with trees hither and yon. There is a half-mile between me and my next-door neighbor. The local town is, of course, more tightly packed BUT there are trees everywhere. I can see my neighbor's house and even the house beyond him. The town is another 500 meters further still and hidden amongst trees.

    I have checked on various community wireless network projects now and again and almost every one of them is associated with cities (clear LOS from rooftop to rooftop) and few tall trees. Other rural networks are associated treeless expanses. Are there any such networks being worked in rural settings that actually includes trees? Not a tree here and there, but TREES? If so, how do you obtain interconnectivity via wireless? I suppose with enough nodes useful signals could be passed through treed areas by "force" but I would like to be as clean an efficient (and cost effective) as possible if I decide to go into this further.

    • Same thing happened to me. I moved to a new home in Silver Springs, Nevada. I broke down and got ISDN, but that is running $400 a month right now. Its crazy. I check on the T1, and it will be $1313 a month with a $1200 setup fee. I setup a WISP from my home. I have to charge $40 per month with 30 people on to pay for the T1. Right now I'm hosting it off of my ISDN for free until I can get 30 people signed up. Then it will be $40 per month with a one year contract. Currently I have three people and a lot of interest. I'm building a repeater to get the others that want to sign up. I figure by next year I will have the T1 and quite a few people online.
  • http://www.signull.com/specsheets/SMISMCY12T-specs heet.jpg interesting antenna for testing
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