Community Wireless Networks

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  • Will in Portland & Twin Cities
  • Matt - sudo mesh
  • Niels - local services for decision making and organizing
  • Juul - finishing the firmware for sudo mesh
  • Grant - curious!
  • Tomas - set up networks in Africa & South Asia; wrote WNDW;
  • Molly - BrisMesh in Australia
  • David - interested as related to chat/communication
  • Hilary - Oakland schools and connecting Oakland; OLPC in SF
  • Adam - wanting to leaarn; sysadmin / networking
  • Jenny - Open Garden; local content; Sudo Mesh


  • Local applications
  • Mesh networking - Dynamic routing to nearby devices
  • Community networks started in ~2003, immature tech;

--> can set up a large antenna and have folks point toward it, or --> can hand out devices and have them connect to each other --> can be practical (no connectivity) or political (owned by the community)

  • Node as a content broadcaster - convert people to producers rather than consumers

--> Athens Mesh and Catalonia network

  • Village Telco - combined wireless box with a zip/telephony component
  • Software-defined radios [very cheap, converts between digital and radio]
  • 802.11ac
  • Phased-array antennas becoming cheaper
  • Security
    • Man-in-the-middle attacks prevalent
    • Location-tracking easy enough to do a traceroute to track static IPs and MAC addresses
  • Limitations
    • Each hop cuts the bandwidth in half
    • Solution is to have a separate backbone, though that reintroduces centralized nodes
    • Very tricky for voice and video
    • 2.4GHz is tricky because microwaves also use it.
    • Trees! --> Sometimes line of sight means working in the night (with a large chainsaw)
  • Village Telco
    • IP telephony and a mesh routing box
    • Limited to ~4 hops
  • Electricity
    • Mali mobile bus
    • Get the devices to use as little power as possible
    • GeekCorps in Ghana - working with an ISP who'd built one hop of a point-to-point network and grew from there
    • Financial reasons for using this kind of infrastructure
    • Truck batteries are largely what's powering this stuff in developing countries - gelpack batteries of lithion ion
    • Could put solar panels on truck batteries
    • Hydroelectric power seen in Kosovo and Armenia, also in Nepal where they're running community radio stations
    • Must be locally-contingent solutions
    • Wind tends to deteriorate quite quickly
    • China and S Africa combined solar and wind power common
    • Portable wind power devices created for sailing, but quite expensive
    • Greenland's Telco providing to northern communities; insane satellite connections; runs off a diesel generator
    • Power requirements are dropping fast! Cheap Ubiquiti gear, the newer stuff
    • Supercapacitors
  • Jylland connecting rural Danish villages
  • Melbourne Wireless and Toy Satellite
    • Everyone using laptops with wireless cards
  • Mesh through a VPN tunnel hides the source IPs
  • If you bypass the set of standards it's easy to mesh! But usually communities don't have those kind of resources
  • Smart sensor networks in research - guy in the Artic working with thousands of nodes
  • Quality of service standards an unsolved problem

Advice to new CWNs

  • All about your mission and values
  • Freifunk: Give people a reason to talk with your neighbors
  • Difficulty in defining success
  • Join the global community of CWNs
  • Watch the bandwidth requirements

Local Content

  • Look to what Athens is doing w/ local Craigslist-esque applications
  • Tidepools - Mobile mapping software designed for decentralized networks



  • Author of the first edition of the 'mesh networking bible'
  • What is mesh? Dynamic routing, decentralization of networks
  • Practical (to get connectivity where there is none) and/or Political (to put networking infrastructure in the hands of the people)
  • State of the technology, new hardware and technologies emerging
  • Various projects happening globally, some of the more prominent have sold out, others continue to thrive