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Almost in the New York Times! Cool Mesh Wifi Stories!

on Thu, 11/21/2013 - 6:16pm

Ben West, co-founder of WasabiNet, was in fact interviewed last month by New York Times writer Kate Murphy in research of her recent article about community-based mesh wireless networks.  Unfortunately, we didn't make the final cut, being edited out for reasons of space.  (Sad trombone.)  Still, the other community networks mentioned, Personal Telco, FNF (in Kansas City!), and AWMN, all very cool.

NYT: Home Wireless Network Keeps the Snoops Away

LIKE most people, Kim Thomas has a broadband connection at home that she uses to check email, surf the Internet and stream music and video.

But unlike most people, Ms. Thomas, 56, a program director for a charitable foundation in Portland, Ore., has no monthly bill. All she did was buy a router and rooftop antenna , which not only granted her free access but also made her part owner of the infrastructure that delivers the signal. Total cost: about $150.

In addition, there is also this similar story that Mother Jones that ran in September, likewise about the global community wireless network movement and about interest in using such as tools against unwarranted surveillance.

MOJO: How to Keep the NSA Out of Your Computer

JOSEPH BONICIOLI mostly uses the same internet you and I do. He pays a service provider a monthly fee to get him online. But to talk to his friends and neighbors in Athens, Greece, he's also got something much weirder and more interesting: a private, parallel internet.

He and his fellow Athenians built it. They did so by linking up a set of rooftop wifi antennas to create a "mesh," a sort of bucket brigade that can pass along data and signals. It's actually faster than the Net we pay for: Data travels through the mesh at no less than 14 megabits a second, and up to 150 Mbs a second, about 30 times faster than the commercial pipeline I get at home. Bonicioli and the others can send messages, video chat, and trade huge files without ever appearing on the regular internet. And it's a pretty big group of people: Their Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network has more than 1,000 members, from Athens proper to nearby islands. Anyone can join for free by installing some equipment. "It's like a whole other web," Bonicioli told me recently. "It's our network, but it's also a playground."

We kinda regret the underlying weakness in both of these articles' assumption that wireless mesh networking via 802.11 has some sort of inherent advantage, vs conventional methods, in guarding one's Internet access against surveillance.  I wish the writers had presented this topic more accurately.  However, to their credit, many of the community mesh network projects mentioned in both articles are indeed investigating ways to introduce streamlined VPN layers for those who want it.