Frequently Asked Questions
This value was chosen both by evaluating the costs of existing residential Internet services in the St. Louis area, and by calculating how many confirmed subscribers would be needed to sustain a network of minimum 100 users.
The Internet connection for each user will be comparable to typical DSL service, 3-5Mbit/s. However, since the Mesh itself is much faster (approx. 20Mbit/s), and since this a co-operative project with shared ownership, subscribers could opt to upgrade it to better service in the future like 100Mbit Cable or 1Gbit Fiber!
The protection of private information on your computer would be similar to what you get when you use Wifi in public places like coffeeshop and libraries. In addition, the WasabiNet routers isolate all users' computers from each other to prevent unrestricted access, whether from the Internet itself or from other mesh users.
No. Users connecting to the Mesh will only see the Captive Portal, if they are using the free service, or if they are connecting with a computer not previously used on the network before. Paying subscribers may opt to have their computer, laptop, smartphone, video player, etc bypass the Portal page and connect to the Internet automatically.
If you imagine the case where 5 people share one DSL connection wirelessly, then yes, large downloads by your neighbor would indeed slow down your internet. However, Mesh Node Wifi enjoys several advanced features that specifically address this problem...
The Mesh Itself: the mesh is the composite cloud of routers communicating with each other wirelessly, and they can redirect connections to dynamically ease congestion. That is, if one wired Internet uplink becomes swamped, the Mesh will direct you to uplinks that are idle. This scheme works on the expectation that not all Internet uplinks within the mesh would be 100% busy at any given time.
Quality of Service Routing or Traffic Shaping: this is a scheme for routing Internet traffic that gives higher priority to certain kinds of content (Web, email, SSH, Skype) and lower priority to other kinds (file-sharing, bit-torrent, large downloads). Many newer broadband routers already support this style of routing, and the Mesh would do it on a larger scale to help economize the available bandwidth for all subscribers.
Furthermore, we can encourage subscribers to take simple steps on their own, like installing the AdBlock plugin for Firefox, to economize on their Internet usage.
Finally, you read more technical detail about our network architecture here.
Will this service actually remain relevant for 5 years? Aren't we supposed to be getting free broadband?
The strongest appeal of WasabInet is that its works right now, as has been demonstrated many times throughout this country and elsewhere.
Free broadband in the style of free TV and radio broadcast is certainly a dream, and the recent decision by the FCC to approve White Space broadband devices almost certainly paves the way. Nevertheless, although companies like Dell, Intel, Microsoft, and Google are working to have White Space-capable computers and handsets on the market in 1 to 2 years, no one has yet announced plans to make White Space routers (i.e. what your laptop would actually connect to).
Furthermore, short of a federally-mandated program for free broadband nationwide (which would take years to implement), no one has yet proposed a viable business model for ubiquitous broadband access that makes it appealing to the companies that actually own most of this country's Internet infrastructure (e.g. AT&T, Verizon, Qwest, Time/Warner, and Comcast).
Finally, the benefit of a neighborhood scale Wifi-savvy presence like WasabiNet is that would put St. Louis residents in an ideal position to adopt next-generation broadband technologies as they appear, rather than wait years for the technology to trickle down. For example, should White Space broadband become truly viable, WasabiNet subscribers could opt to purchase the new equipment to speed up the Mesh or even expand their network beyond the borders of Benton Park West.
Yes, it looks like the Federal Government is indeed considering this. However, please note the above statement that Federally-mandated free Internet access would take years to deploy, and there are lots and lots of issues with the free Internet that have yet to be worked out. For example, would the Internet be available over Wifi, WiMax, DSL, cell phone, or something else entirely? Would free Internet users have to buy new equipment or even new computers? Also, would the free Internet service being considered be an ad-supported service with content filtering? As of yet, this would only be a policy mandate. It would still be up to the private Internet companies to decide whether the magnitude of ad support and the content filtering demanded is feasible and economical (meaning they may still choose not to build it.)
For background, the Hidden Node problem refers to routing difficulties in mesh networks, where one or more nodes are not uniformly visible to all other nodes.
The OLSR routing algorithm that WasabiNet uses works around this problem by having each node compute its route back to the gateway, based on hops between adjacent nodes. That is, if Node A can't directly see the node with the Internet gateway, Node C, because it is too far away or because of interference issues, but it can see Node B that is visible to both A and C, then Node A will route its traffic to C through Node B.
Could WasabiNet or its partners get in trouble if someone uploads illegal content (child porn, pirated software)?
Legal action against Internet users only comes after repeated, sustained instances of abuse that have been documented by either law enforcement (in the case of child porn) or by aggrieved parties (i.e. the RIAA and MP3 music sharing).
Either way, the subscription access to WasabiNet would permit the network operators to ban specific computers that were used to either abuse WasabiNet itself (i.e. download lots and lots and lots of data w/o paying) or to repeatedly upload contraband content. That this, offending computers could be booted off the network before their persistent abuse created enough of a problem to affect other WasabiNet users.
Finally, it is important to note that stories about sharing illegal content have been hyped in newsmedia in a way that greatly exaggerates public fear vs. the magnitude of the incidents themselves. Furthermore, the RIAA in particular is being challenged on the legality of its pursuit of people sharing copyrighted content.
WiMax is indeed a new wireless technology that has many benefits over traditional 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, including transmission range and speed. However, WiMax equipment (routers, repeaters, antennae) are still prohibitively expensive as of this writing, and Wimax-capable laptops and handsets are not yet commonplace. For example, Best Buy does not sell any WiMax devices as of this writing.
Technically, yes, which is why WasabiNet buys commercial Internet access from providers with explicitly "share-friendly" terms. Also, we would work to switch any existing AT&T customers to our own provider.
There is no law that explicitly prevents you from sharing your Internet access, although at the same time there also is no law which explicitly allows it. The law has yet to fully catch up with technology. However, using someone's private residential Internet service without their permission is generally considered illegal (i.e. stealing), but whole point of WasabiNet is to make the service available to cost-sharing and limited free use. You can't steal something which is being offered to you. Also, it's important to point out distinctions between simply sharing wireless Internet service (which is what WasabiNet does), and using the service to break into other people's computers (which is illegal) or sharing content illegally. Please see answers below about privacy and liability issues.
As this is something of a matter of public debate, I would recommend this article in Ars Technica if you would like to read further.